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Spirituality and Prayer Relieve Stress

The last thing I think of when I’m stressed out with work deadlines and complicated homework projects with the kids is to get on my knees or attend Mass. But a growing body of research suggests prayer and religion rank high among the best stress busters.

In her new book, The SuperStress Solution, Dr. Roberta Lee devotes a section to the topic of spirituality and prayer.

“Research shows that people who are more religious or spiritual use their spirituality to cope with life,” notes Dr. Lee.

“They’re better able to cope with stress, they heal faster from illness, and they experience increased benefits to their health and well-being. On an intellectual level, spirituality connects you to the world, which in turn enables you to stop trying to control things all by yourself. When you feel part of a greater whole, it’s easy to understand that you aren’t responsible for everything that happens in life.”

30 Comments to
Spirituality and Prayer Relieve Stress

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  1. Ok, a quick google for this Dr. Roberta Lee points us to the website an “Center for Health & Healing” where she is listed as: Roberta Anne Lee, MD, Vice Chair, Department of Integrative Medicine. This place lists the following as in it’s treatment plan: Energy medicines, like homeopathy, Reiki and therapeutic touch.

    I’m sorry, Dr Lee’s credibility just fell through the floor and is still in free fall.

    Why even report about these people?

  2. ubi,

    Different strokes for different folks. Apparently, you don’t believe in alternative therapies. That is respected. We can assume that when you say “Dr. Lee’s credibility just fell through the floor and is still in free fall,” that this is happening in your mind. You do not know how effective this doctor has been and how many she has helped.

  3. There are no ‘alternative’ therapies, there are only those that work and those that don’t. Homeopathy, Reiki etc do not work (your placebo milage may vary 😉 ).

    Let’s say you were to require the assistance of a chemist to do some work that is equivalent in importance to a persons (your) health. Would you choose the one who is working in the realm of reality or the one who advocates alchemy? In this case alchemy is named homeopathy, reiki and what other frauds they try to sell.
    Maybe she’s a great person and doctor, but how likely is that when she’s working at such a place?

    “The Committee concurred with the Government that the evidence base shows that homeopathy is not efficacious (that is, it does not work beyond the placebo effect) and that explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible.”

  4. I find these posts so darned annoying that ordinarily I don’t read anything posted by Borchard. However, if you choose to live rationally (e.g., without bothering to believe in nonsense about religion), you a) can find plenty of other ways to gain social support without church (I attended church for years, so I know how *unsupportive* a church “fellowship” can be); b) maintain a perfectly coherent belief system without God–e.g., secular humanist principles–or your *own* principles, derived from experience and not foisted on you; c) have laws to live by–many of which are imposed by secular institutions. For example, I seldom speed when driving; d) Find meaning without requiring faith.

  5. Alternative remedies like acupuncture? Maybe.

    Therapeutic touch? You have got to be kidding.

    Seriously. To take it seriously, the gods must be crazy.

  6. I tend to agree with the other comments; religion, spirituality and prayer are nothing more than placebo. They give a false feeling of hope which is the real ingredient behind each of those. It’s like discover that it isn’t the prayers over the tree bark that heal headaches but rather the tree bark itself.

    I know for many there is an impulse to cling to our religions because change is so scary and to understand that there is no great father in sky looking after your makes you realize that life happens to us all. And that bad things happen to good people. That concept is terrifying to most people because we are taught that if we are good people and do the right thing the G-d will bless us.

    One more thing, consider that it does not matter the religion the healing power is the same…Not all religions can be the same. And given that fact that many groups have created and/or increased mental issues due strict rules and moral strong arming.

  7. Thank you for this wonderful article.

    As a religious person and a therapist, I find that talking to God (i.e. prayer) on a regular basis keeps me moving forward in the right direction regardless of how difficult my circumstances are. Although I try very hard not to push religion in any way, shape, or form on my clients, I am well aware of the emotional improvements that occur in their lives when they begin to pray and attend religious services on a regular basis. Prayer holds individuals, families, and communities together ( Prayer binds us to something greater, to the ultimate source of healing and renewal.

    I would appreciate any feedback about whether I should perhaps begin including more talk about prayer and even religion in the work I do with clients. effectivefamily at gmail dot com.

  8. Ben,

    IMHO, if you can’t provide hope and treatment without prayer then you have no business being a therapist, and if you were my therapist and you even hinted at it I would tell where to go and what to do with it. Then you would never see me again.

  9. Ben Klempner: should a therapist not try to get delusions out of people’s heads, not into them?

    Again, it may be true that hope helps people get well or stay well. However the person is not helped by lying to them about the nature of our universe, especially not by a person they ought to be able to trust.
    (Most of) Religion is also highly exclusive if you don’t fit their profile. I can see this already: “Don’t worry and pray with us, God is going to take care of everything and it’s going to be fine. Oh and btw, you’re going to suffer in all eternity in Hell because you’re gay.”
    Very comforting. Really.

  10. It is interesting that this article attracts the Secular Humanists, Atheists, and folks that seem angry at religion/God, gods, etc.

    Science cannot measure the non-linear such as the healing power of unconditional love. Yet, outside of the control of the reason and mind, it happens and people get healed… miraculously!

  11. Samuel,

    You assume anger because I disagree? Projecting who I am and what believe does not make it true, however it does show the subjective nature of those that follow religion. Since I am A must mean I am B…a logical fallacy to say the least but useful when you want to assuage your own self.

    You say science cannot measure non-linear emotions….what exactly is psychiatry/psychology and why should I believe in my therapists when he is nothing more than a sounding board who cannot accurately judge my condition or level of improvement.

    Love again is related to hope which creates a specific mindset or rather set of neurological responses to stimulus…which often times releases chemicals in the body which increases the body to heal itself. We at this time know only a fraction of what is available to know and to assume that science cannot explain means that it must spiritualistic is scientific dishonesty.

    Do you still believe that magnets are magical instruments?

  12. I agree that it is useful to stick with what works.

    To me the evidence is pretty clear that many people have found stress relief, healing and peace through the power of prayer.

    It can be a “standard religion” but it does not have to be.

    For example, experiences of many people in 12 Step Groups have demonstrated that faith in a “Higher Power” can promote healing of serious problems and fatal diseases such as alcohol and other addictions.

  13. Don’t lump me in, Dr. Lopez. I’m a reasonably observant Jew with a belief in an Almighty.

    You’re right that science can’t measure the non-lnear, but it sure can measure outcomes of evidence-based psychological practice, and debunk the arrant nonsense of so-called “healing touch.” Thank God!

  14. Kenneth and TPG,

    Please accept a Mea Culpa from me. I do agree that science can tell us about chemical reactions when we give and feel love. My point is much akin to the similar quest to understand have handles on human “consciousness.” The “earth suit” is studied but where is the “ghost in the machine.” Science cannot find it so far.

    I do agree with the person who shared about how spirituality has helped many to heal and overcome issues via the “12 Steps.” It is common fact that more individuals have recovered and healed through these programs than any other treatment system. The interesting thing is that it is done with laypersons.

    Best regards!

  15. Why would there be anything more than our physical bodies? How do you get the idea that there is anything other than the natural world? The more science learns, the more we learn, the more evidence accumulates towards a world without the supernatural. The gaps for God to hide in grow smaller by the minute.

    My question is still this: is it moral to lie to adult people about the nature of our universe? They are beeing told about a version of reality that has never been proven to exist. They are beeing offered a sort of Santa Claus who they ought to beliefe in to get better.
    Well yes they might feel better, they become (or grow closer to) part of an in-group and get an invisible father figure. Still they’be beeing “sold” an idea that is not based on fact, only on wishful thinking. Is that really the way to treat adults?

    I’m not angry. I’m shocked and offended to see people in a most vulnerable position treated like this.

  16. ubi,

    With all due respect you deserve, the same argument applies to secular humanism and atheism. That is another version of “reality.”

    Best regards!

  17. I like to think that there’s only one reality, but many different perspectives of it :-)

    The critical difference is that theism/deism makes extraordinary claims (e.g. an intelligent beeing in control of this planet/universe). Outside of studies and experiments I would rather see people with health problems of any sort beeing treated with solid and proven methods. I know that that’s an ideal we won’t be able to reach, but every last bit counts.

    Maybe I just don’t get why anyone would feel comfort from talking (or just beeing able to do that) themselves into believing that there actually is a God/higher purpose.
    I underwent surgery four times (nothing life threatening though) and never felt the need for such belief. The knowledge of beeing in good hands (skilled and experienced surgeons) was quite enough. I can proof they’re there, I can check their track record, I can shake their hand when they do a good job and be rather upset if they don’t.
    This whole idea looks to me like someone claiming “Well there’s this invisible pink elephant right next to me. He goes wherever I go and protects me from harm!”. Wouldn’t you raise an eyebrow at such a person?

  18. ubi,

    If the majority of the world would testify that they have been helped and sustained by a “pink elephant” then I believe it cannot be dismissed so easily. Those who do not believe in “pink elephants” would have a hard time and could not relate. The would be called “A-Pink-Elephantists.”

    Could atheism be a figment of the imagination, a case of observer bias injected into observations?

  19. I’ve heard of a possibly similar thing about survival in the wilderness when lost, apparently it’s the loss of hope, or faith you will get out, that is most fatal, then people panic and do stupid desperate things, give up, etc.

    This is faith in getting out alive of coarse, not in divinity, it may be an aetheistic kind of faith, but it sounds similar.

    I actually think many (not all) aetheists substitute religion with an unrealistic faith in the ability of humanity to control everything through the godlike powers of science and technology.

    Perhaps the healing power of this faith is being eroded nowdays with allthe news of the end of the world(etc etc) looming due to our brilliant inventions.

  20. I’m so tired of this old trope. The fallacy lies in conflating the belief in a god with the benefits conferred by mindfulness and a commitment to any structured, positive belief system.

  21. I have Dissociative Identity Disorder and have been sustained through it all by knowing that God will be with me throughout my cycles and that He knows and loves me very deeply. I strongly recommend spirituality as a way to deal with any mental illness, and am grateful for this article.

  22. People, it wouldn’t kill you to stick to the subject of the article and take a debate elsewhere, would you? Seriously.

    From my POV, as a psychology graduate and a current religion (not theology, the academic study of religion to be crystal clear) I’m well aware that there is a connection between belief in something greater than oneself, as well as the benefit of a positive community and how it positively affects one’s outlook on life, and it does help to deal with stress as well. It’s not new news, but it bears repeating since people seem to be misinformed and think otherwise. Please do look up the research done by many other people on this topic – the proof IS there, whether it is a placebo effect or not. It still shows positive results.

  23. Folks……..the point is being missed.

    GOD answers the prayers of His followers!!!

    You can try to excuse it, avoid it, or analyze it away, but the fact remains that as He promised, He answers prayer.

    These statistics only serve to support the facts that otherwise leave you scratching your head.

  24. I agree, Prayer really is also a good way to relieve from stress. When i feel like i’m about to feel stress, i just clasp my hands, close my eyes for a minute and utter a prayer and ask for guidance.

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  25. Hi everyone,

    Even though I am not religious, it’s clear to me that there are therapeutic techniques that tap into a person’s spirituality. However, this doesn’t have to be about God or be religious at all, although it can be – it is merely an aid to help that person access their own intuition. In this way, it is not “God” that helps the person, but themselves.

    It’s important to note that this area of research is still very new, and there are also many studies which suggest that being religious per se is not enough to make you healthier or happier. We still haven’t pinpointed what it is that leads to these sorts of results, and so I urge future researchers to look into it! :)

  26. On another note, I’d like to respond to this comment by Samuel:

    “spirituality has helped many to heal and overcome issues via the “12 Steps.” It is common fact that more individuals have recovered and healed through these programs than any other treatment system.”

    Actually it’s a common fact (supported by research) that THERAPY is a lot more efficacious than any 12-step program. There’s even an article on this website about the problems of 12-step programs:

    And that’s just the start of it. Research has found that 12-step programs DO NOT have a success rate that is significantly greater than that of spontaneous remission, and they can actually be harmful. Such as the study which showed that people in AA engage in FIVE TIMES more binge drinking than people who had NO treatment, and NINE TIMES more binge drinking than people who were receiving rational behaviour therapy. This is due to the powerlessness and complete abstinence which AA promotes – people think ‘well I’ve had one drink, I’ve blown it, I may as well have 10 more’.

    Despite this, there are a lot of therpists that dish out 12-step recommendations to pretty much everyone – even people who aren’t religious – even though 12-step programs are heavily God-based, are not for everyone, and research has shown them to be ineffective and potentially harmful.

    Forgive the ranting everyone, this is just something that I couldn’t believe at first. Just because 12-step programs are common, it does not mean they are effective!

  27. I could not agree less to that fact. I was once felt so down, depressed due to stress but through the help of some friends and through prayers, I was able to conquer it. I have also seek some online advices and it helped me.

  28. I happen read the Bible at times and because of this, I was able how to practice my faith as well. There are things that we might say that are out of control and you even surrender. But this approached help me as well. Lot of things can be done and it all depends on how we chose to solve our own stress.

  29. My son suffers from rapid cycling, mixed bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. He is very active in the spiritual community where I serve as a minister. His former psychiatrist was very supportive of his participation in our spiritual community. She told us that there is much research to suggest that a person with a mood disorder will do better with some type of spiritual connection.

    I am not a scientist, but I am a mother and a minister. I can see for myself how being an active part of our community is so good for his mental health. He is very much appreciated for his service to our center and he is loved by our members. His participation and involvement goes a long way toward helping him feel like a valuable and productive part of life, even if he is currently on disability.

  30. Just wanted to chime in here… I agree that prayer relieves stress…however I also think that meditation can also be of just as much help :)

  31. Hi,
    I am a second degree Reiki Channel. I had undergone a Heart bye-pass surgery in 1991. After the surgery I was very weak and frail.A friend advised me to learn Reiki and practice it regularly. Though I did not have much faith, I decided to give it a try. For almost 15 years I am practicing it. It has changed me back to a healthy person. I have no trace of the disease now. Not only that I could treat many of my close relatives and friends who wanted my help both by direct touch and distantly.
    This is not a faith healing. No placebo effect. I have not received a single Rupee in return for such healing so far.
    It is unfortunate that people , without studying or experiencing it, simply say it is humbug.Only thing is , you must take the initiation from a competent Master.

  32. It is obvious that spirituality and prayer plays an important part in our lives in regard to our ability to cope with life and stress. It is not new – spirituality and faith have always played an important part in human lives – when dealing with disease and illness. This has been confirmed in different scientific studies. E.g. mindfulness meditation (MBSR) has shown significant effects with regards to relieving stress and improving mental health.



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