One mental fitness practice (not often associated with or referred to as a mental practice) that can have a profound impact on well-being is prayer. Prayer has been shown to reduce stress, lower anxiety and depressive symptoms, and help better cope with pain. It is simple to do and accessible to anyone, anytime, and anywhere.
Some unfamiliar with the practice may be thinking, “Well, what exactly is prayer? And how do I do it?” Well, prayer is simply communicating to God or a higher power. It’s a purposeful, conscious, directed act of the mind. Which is why it’s a great mental practice, because it activates and exercises the brain’s prefrontal cortex (the part involved in conscious thinking, planning, rationality, self-control and decision making). And that’s what we are all about on this platform and how you develop greater mental fitness.
A prayer can be as simple as giving thanks for the things we have in life. Or asking God to provide comfort and wisdom in times of need. Or asking God to watch over loved ones. Although the science may be debatable, prayer has been attributed to healing in situations involving sickness, both with people doing the praying and people being prayed for.
Now prayer or communication is a two way street, which involves us speaking, but also us listening. Listening to what though? It’s not like there is another person in the room talking back to us. So what is it exactly we are listening for and how do we know it’s God or a higher power communicating back?
Don’t Forget to Listen
Let’s go back to the nature of God, which I’ve described in detail on this platform. God is perfect, unconditioned, limitless, infinite goodness, beauty, truth and love (to name a few things). So whenever we are engaged in prayer (or just going about our day, for that matter), any thoughts or feelings or emotions that are loving, beautiful or good in nature are God speaking to us. And this makes sense because, again, that’s God’s nature. God is goodness, beauty, love, and truth.
Random thoughts and emotions occur all the time. And we have absolutely no idea where they come from. Maybe the thoughts and emotions that are loving, beautiful and point towards truth, are God communicating to us. God is not physical, so it makes sense that the primary means of communication to God and with God would be non-physical. It would be through prayer, through our minds and our consciousness.
Thoughts affect the body and thoughts can promote health and healing. We can improve well-being by flooding the brain and the body with positive thoughts, which then in turn can generate healthy, feel good chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. So prayer can benefit well-being and help develop greater mental fitness by activating the prefrontal cortex.
Purposefully take time every day to flood your mind with positive uplifting thoughts through prayer. Pay attention to how you feel and consciously work to generate thoughts and feelings of gratitude, love, empathy, compassion and beauty. It’s great mental practice!
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