If you are someone who is active in a faith based community, or you have a spiritual orientation, you may have experienced the feelings of being uplifted, and relief from anxiety after you have engaged in your faith based practice. If you are either religiously, or spiritually inclined, consider prayer as part of your regimen for mental health and wellness. Though there is not much said about faith and prayer as an intervention, I propose that faith based approach may very well be as effective as other forms of mediation.
In fact, prayer is a form of meditation and can shift one’s focus onto higher levels of thought, quiet the mind, and increase positive thinking. Consider Cognitive Behavior Therapy and the process of training one’s mind to stop negative thoughts, while developing a “habit” of thinking positive thoughts, corrective thoughts, or positive replacement thoughts. While an individual may be achieving this through many forms of meditation where one either repeats positive affirmations, or mantras, prayer offers the same cognitive behavioral approaches. An added boost for the spiritual practitioner (or person praying), is that engaging in the activity is likely to increase the person’s faith in his or her higher power.
If you are an individual who has a firm belief in a higher power, consider taking the time to learn a bit about cognitive behavior therapy, and see if you can integrate the principles of changing thought patterns and behavioral patterns with the practice of prayer by learning certain prayers that treat your negative thought patterns directly. If you practice the same prayers long enough, you can then train yourself to automatically “play” that prayer in your mind when “triggered”. In other words, if you often spiral into a negative thought cycle when triggered by stress, you can train your mind to automatically “play” a prayer when you are triggered in this way- “much like some-times a song is “played” in your head and you “hear” it over and over. This will, over time, override your automatic negative thoughts, and you will have a way to be “elevated” and overcome your stress.
In many faith based practices, prayer has three components to it, all of which can play a role in quieting the mind, training the mind to be positive, and deepening a sense of calm and inner peace. Most usually do begin with memorized prayers. Most also include opportunities for the spiritual practitioner to petition their higher power and ask for what they need and practice faith and trust that one’s needs will be met. This practice can work well for alleviating anxiety. You have likely heard the phrase “let go and let G-d. Finally, there is the component of receiving. Most faith based practices encourage the spiritual practitioner to pray, and then ask their higher power for guidance. By providing the self with quiet time after reciting prayers, and asking for what one needs and for guidance, take time to be still and experience the quieted mind. Indeed, this is a form of meditation. The longer you are able to remain in this state, the easier it is to “retrieve” this feeling of calm centeredness while going through your daily business.
This is just one more approach to quieting the mind, and working toward more positive thoughts while developing a positive inner environment, acknowledging that we cannot always have control over external conditions, but we can consistently work toward improving our inner landscape where, in reality we reside wherever we might go.