Facts with Hope
FACT: Anxiety can shorten a person’s life. Researchers examined data on more than 60,000 people from 10 large cohort studies in England and found that even very mild depression or anxiety raised the risk of death from heart disease by 29% and all-cause death by 20%, even after adjusting for unhealthy behaviors that often accompany anxiety and depression, like smoking and excessive drinking. They also accounted for things like exercise, weight, and diabetes.1
HOPE: God has a better plan! Psalm 55:22 tells us to cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall (NIV). A randomized controlled trial investigated the effect of prayer on depression, anxiety, positive emotions, and salivary cortisol levels. Participants receiving the prayer intervention showed significant improvement of depression and anxiety, as well as increases of daily spiritual experiences and optimism compared to controls. Participants in the control group did not show significant changes during the study.2
FACT: Prayer plays a role in promoting gratitude. Researchers found that participants who were randomly assigned to pray evidenced greater gratitude than those who were randomly assigned to a control condition, even after controlling for baseline levels of gratitude and general levels of religiosity.3
HOPE: Feeling down after the holidays? Do your own experiment. Take a baseline reading of what you think your gratitude level is, then again after a month of spending time praying each day. When we pray, our perspective changes.
FACT: Meditation produces powerful pain-relieving effects in the brain. Study participants were taught a meditation technique which involved paying close attention to breathing patterns while acknowledging and letting go of distracting thoughts. Brain imaging showed that pain intensity ratings were reduced after meditation by an average of 40%, and pain unpleasantness rating were reduced by 57%.4
HOPE: This research confirms that our thoughts can have a real and measurable impact on our physical experience. But instead of just focusing on breathing and letting go of distractions, meditate on God’s Word, ponder His Ways, and reflect on how His truth pertains to you. No imaging is powerful enough to measure the effects!
FACT: The more one prays, the less alcohol they drink. Four methodologically diverse studies show that prayer frequency and alcohol consumption are negatively related. Researchers randomly assigned people to regular prayer or nonprayer tasks and then asked them to report their alcohol consumption after four weeks. Those who were assigned to pray drank about half as much as those who weren’t. 5
HOPE: Spending time alone with God is the best way to curb addictive behavior. Not only does it put you in
touch with divine power, but closeness to God will decrease your craving for anything else.
- Russ, T. C., Stamatakis, E., Hamer, M., Starr, J. M., Kivimäki, M. & Batty, G. D. (2012). Association between psychological distress and mortality: Individual participant pooled analysis of 10 prospective cohort studies. BMJ 2012, 345. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e4933.
- Boelens, P. A., Reeves, R. R., Replogle, W. H. & Koenig, H. G. (2009). A randomized trial of the effect of prayer on depression and anxiety. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine 39(4), 377-392. doi: 10.2190/PM.39.4.c
- Lambert, N. M., Fincham, F. D., Braithwaite, S. R., Graham, S. M. & Beach, S. R. H. (2009). Can prayer increase gratitude? Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 1(3), 139-149.
- Zeidan, F., Martucci, K. T., Kraft, R. A., Gordon, N. S., McHaffie, J. G. & Coghill, R. C. (2011). Brain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31(14): 5540-5548. doi: 10.1523/ JNEUROSCI.5791-10.2011
- Lambert, N. M., Fincham, F. D., Marks, L. D. & Stillman, T. F. (2010). Invocations and intoxication: Does prayer decrease alcohol consumption? Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 24(2), 209-219.