The religious community likes to point to studies about the power of prayer on the health and wellness of those who practice it. But there are other options that are just as effective. A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology outlined findings that showed prayer can help some with self-control. Similarly, a 2010 study in Psychological Science declared prayer can increase rates of forgiveness.
Prayer has been seen to reduce high blood pressure, high pulse rates. Americans love it too, as evidenced by the 45 percent of them — and 55 percent of Christians — who say they rely a lot on prayer and religious reflection when they’re making major decisions in their lives.
But it turns out that the power of prayer is less about prayer and more about the power of quiet reflection and focus. If you want to get the same impact as prayer but don’t need an invisible deity breathing down your neck, try something like these other nine alternatives:
Meditation is basically prayer without the bearded white dude in the sky being involved. A UCLA study found that those who meditate on a regular basis had better-preserved brains than those who don’t as they aged.
“We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating,” said study author Florian Kurth. “Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”
Interestingly, a Yale University study found that meditation can help keep our minds from wandering because scans show it decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN). Mind-wandering can be a sign of a less happy person, so meditation can help that.
Like prayer, studies show that practicing yoga has a calming effect on those who make the time. It has been found to reduce blood pressure as well as the resting heart rate. Unlike prayer, however, yoga is a physical activity, so it can also help build flexibility, circulation, core strength, immune system functionality and reduce your body weight.
Psychologically, chanting yoga has shown to have a calming effect on those working in difficult and stressful jobs, according to a study. A 2005 German study showed the practice not only reduced anxiety but also helped those with depression to the tune of 50 percent.
Unlike prayer, only 7.5 percent of the American population has tried yoga in their lifetimes.
Whether you’re playing with a partner or practicing some self-love, having an orgasm is amazing for you physically and mentally. The positive news is that 94 percent of men and 85 percent of women admit to masturbating. That significantly eclipses the people who practice prayer rituals, a national survey outlines.
Whether you’re a cat or a dog person, pet owners know first hand how the impact of furry friends can help with relaxation and certainly patience. But there are actual psychological benefits
Studies show that the human-animal interactions increase the release of oxytocin, which is often referred to as the “love hormone,” the “hug hormone,” the “bliss hormone,” the “cuddle hormone” and even the moral molecule. It has the effect of creating a sense of joy or euphoria in those who score a good dose of it. Thus, curling up with your favorite Fido or feline fur can aid in comfort and psychological stability.
Crazy as it might sound, when your massage therapist asks you if you want scents in your oil, it can actually have an impact on your ability to relax. A study on stress response in adolescents that appeared in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing found that stress levels and stress responses were “significantly lower” in students who wore a scented pendant than the control group that didn’t.
A similar study in 2006 showed inhaling the scents as part of a deep breathing exercise helps calm blood pressure, pulse, subjective stress, state anxiety and serum cortisol levels were affected significantly. Of course, the deep breathing probably helps with that as well.
Cranking up your headphones as you head home from work isn’t just helping you disconnect from the daily grind, it’s actually helping trigger a biochemical stress reduction in your body.
According to the University of Maryland, “music is an effective stress reducer in both healthy individuals and people with health problems. Research finds that listening to soothing music can decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety levels in heart patients.”
A 2011 study from the European Federation of Internal Medicine outlined the ways in which some types of music can “modulate several cardiac and neurological functions, as well as trigger biochemical measurable stress-reducing effects in certain individuals.” Some have even used music as a therapeutic tool while treating people for various diseases. Not instead of but in conjunction with.
Reports have also shown listening to classical music can help boost brainpower, a theory known as “The Mozart Effect.”
It’s called a “power nap” for a reason. The physical and psychological benefits of sleep are overwhelming and napping has shown to reduce cortisol levels, which can help with stress relief, according to a 2010 study.
The National Sleep Foundation found that just 20-30 minutes of a short snooze can provide “significant benefit for improved alertness and performance.” Psychologically, a quick doze in your day can be a little like a mini-vacation, providing relaxation and rejuvenation.
Sara Mednick — author of Take a Nap! Change your Life — says that a quick 20-minute nap can help reduce stress, improve your perception, increase stamina, help your motor skills and accuracy, even enhance your sex life. Making sure you get enough sleep ultimately “helps you make better decisions, keeps you looking younger, aids in weight loss, reduces the risk of heart attack, elevates your mood, and strengthens memory.”
Remember that old anti-drug saying from school “hugs not drugs?” Well, there might be some truth to that. Getting a good hug provides a stress-buffer and generates the good feeling hormone oxytocin, according to research from Carnegie Mellon. It not only can help us feel connected to people but stress related sickness can be staved off all thanks to a good hug.
Hugs from a friend or loved one can make us feel like we’ve got the crucial social support that provides psychological relief during tough times. It can reduce blood pressure and chill a quick heart rate. Like many drugs, a hug can increase serotonin and dopamine levels which can help stop feelings of depression or loneliness.
9. Have a cup of tea
Having a cup of black tea leads to lower post-stress cortisol levels and greater feelings of relaxation, according to research. Even though tea has caffeine, drinking it can lower anxiety levels following a stressful experience. In some cases, a cup of tea can even make people calmer than they were before.
If you want to increase the benefits of the tea, don’t just buy one. The study shows that the act of making the tea itself helps by tapping into a collective consciousness and ritualistic symbolism, much like saying the rosary can be.
So, if you aren’t one to go with the praise music and clasp your hands to the Lord, try one of these options to achieve that feeling of contentment running through you.