The role of spiritual practices in healing depression and anxiety

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Whether you are a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim or Hindu, chances are that you engage in the spiritual practices of prayer and meditation, especially during times of physical and mental pain or illness. By practicing religious or spiritual activities, you tend to become depressed less often and recover from any depression more quickly, Dr. Harold Koenig, MD, of Duke University reported in his “Handbook of Religion and Health” after surveying thousands of studies on the effects of prayer and meditation on health.


Why is this so? Dr. David Spiegel, MD, psychiatrist at Stanford University, found in studies of MRIs that, “Praying involves the deeper parts of the brain” (specifically, the cortex). These parts of the brain are involved in self-reflection and self-soothing.”


Dr. Loretta Breuning, PhD., professor at California State University, found in her research that when we pray, neural pathways are activated to release the “feel-good” hormone oxytocin.


Author of the 1993 book, “Healing Words,” Dr. Larry Dossey, MD, ignited the interest and practice of prayer by doctors and nurses following his deep dive into the research literature of the last half of the 20th century. Since that time, Dossey has pointed to the existing positive evidence of prayer use with patients to enlighten his fellow professionals to include spiritual practices in their medicine.


More recently, there have been more and more supportive studies. Research from Columbia University’s Teachers College, spearheaded by Dr. Lisa Miller, PhD, professor and researcher, found that prayer and meditation may bring about better depression treatment outcomes because the brain cortex actually thickens as a result of spiritual and religious activities. A Baylor University study published in the “Journal of Religion” found that praying to a loving and protective God can relieve anxiety-related disorders, while researcher Matt Bradshaw, PhD, found that emotional comfort is experienced through prayer. Research by S.  Jain and associates, reported in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine (2007), found meditation reduces stress and promotes positive mood states.  


At 1 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11 at The Commons at Central Hall, NAMI Piscataquis County will host a video presentation entitled, “Meditation and Prayer: How Spiritual Practices Can Be Powerful Tools to Overcome Depression and Anxiety.” You can learn how people have used their connection with a higher power to help themselves through their mental health challenges and how having a positive spiritual belief can lower the risk for mental illness. While previous video presentations have looked at resources from without, such as supplements, food, detoxification, medications, and cognitive behavioral therapy, this presentation explores the resources within yourself for spiritual development.


If you would like to attend this presentation, please register at 207-924-7903 or at


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