Prayer powers positive emotions

By Shayna Brouker • Published: March 24th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Feeling anxious, angry, helpless, weak or just at the end of your rope? There’s one easy way to melt the stress away: simply pray.

Odds are you already do; nine out of ten Americans report that they pray at least occasionally. No matter which walk of faith you ascribe to, the power of pressing your hands together, bowing your head and offering up a plea to a higher power can work wonders for your emotional health. A new study from the University of Wisconsin at Madison found exactly how prayer helps people — specifically those in abusive relationships — deal with difficult emotions in several ways.

A wide range of subjects from diverse educational and racial backgrounds from across the country reported that venting their personal frustrations to God, rather than their abusive partner, allowed them to speak freely without fear of retaliation.

Prayer also fosters feelings of self-worth. The study subjects regarded themselves in a positive light, as they perceived God to see them, rather than in the negative way their partner viewed them.

Prayer can function as a welcome reprieve from pain by focusing on the task at hand: talking to God, who they considered a “readily available ear.” Other studies have shown that prayer increases forgiveness toward transgressions, such as abuse.

But the key to unlocking these affirmative feelings is to imagine God as a real person, which likens prayer to an actual conversation with a close friend or relative. The study examined prayer as a social interaction with someone imagined, rather than face-to-face.

So the next time that jerk cuts you off in traffic or your spouse forgets your anniversary, consider calling on God — or simply a close friend. A “readily available” ear is indeed divine.