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Faith, Health and the Power of Prayer

Never under estimate the power of prayer and spirituality in your lives. It’s no joke that stress more negatively affects African Americans more than any other group. One of the major factors is that many African American women are constantly so much stress that it affects their health, mental state and in turn, the people around them. That’s why acknowledging stress is critical. Along with exercise, rest and a good diet, spirituality is ranked right at the top of the list in helping African Americans live healthier lives.

“We are taught that anxiety is the result of something we are doing wrong,” says Angela Neal-Barnett, a director of Kent State’s Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders. “If we pray a little harder, if we keep ourselves in the word more we would not be experiencing this.”

In her book, Soothe Your Nerves: The Black Woman's Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety, Panic, and Fear, Neal-Barnett tries to dispel mental health myths about African-Americans. She points out that there’s clear evidence of panic attacks in the Old and New Testaments.

Neal-Barnett and many others are quick to say that you can’t simply pray away anxiety or some of the related negative health outcomes, such as depression, but they do say prayer can help you navigate your way through tough times. Researchers have found that prayer can “improve positive brain chemicals - like dopamine and serotonin—while also leading to improved self-control.”

Researchers have found that prayer can "improve positive brain chemicals - like dopamine and serotonin - while also leading to improved self-control."

Herbert Benson, M.D., the founder of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School adds, “When people pray, they evoke a physiological response that’s opposite to the stress response: the relaxation response. Because when you pray, you break the train of everyday thought through repetition of a word, sound, prayer or phrase.”

University of Illinois researchers Tamilia D. Reed and Helen A. Neville discovered in their study that “women who possessed higher degrees of spirituality had better mental health and were more satisfied with their lives.”

Now more than ever, spirituality, faith and prayer can help you navigate your way through all the daily stresses of work, family and the politically charged world in which we live.

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