Prayer and meditation can have far-reaching effects on health and wellness. Not only have the spiritually minded believed this for centuries, but science is starting to look into the phenomenon of healing through faith. Although research has only begun to delve into the strength of prayer and meditation as a means to a healthier life, preliminary findings have shown a possible connection.

Studies have shown that prayer and meditation do affect brain activity. Scientists monitored the brain activity of Budhist monks in meditation and found increased activity in the area that affects our orientation to the space around us as well as the area that controls concentration. The physiological effects reach beyond the mind, though. A review of studies found that people with a spiritual bent tend to have lower death rates, and people who are healthy are more likely to remain healthy if they participate in spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation than those who do not. But what if you have serious questions as to the existence and nature of a higher power? Can you still reap the benefits of prayer and meditation in your own life?

For centuries people have wrestled with questions over the existence and nature of God, and there are no easy answers. Add to that all the historical and personal connotations associated with religion, and many people turn away from this idea unfulfilled. Maybe the idea of prayer and meditation is intriguing, but the “God stuff” gets in the way. Unbelievers can tap into this force, though, if they’re willing to try a little shift in perspective. This isn’t to convert anyone to a specific religion or ideology, but to dispose with religions and ideologies all together and recreate the idea of God as to fit your life.

If you like you can reinvent the face of God. Sit and make a list of qualities you would want God to have. Don’t worry about what you’ve been taught in the past about God; just use the qualities you value most as guidelines to what you think God should be. Once you’ve set your concept of God, you can pray to this God without all the negative trappings you’ve associated with God because of past experiences.

Perhaps you might decide to dispose of the name “God” altogether. You could name your God Bob, Scruffy, or Master of the Universe if you’d prefer. In all seriousness, you can simply choose to think of God as a light in the world, symbol of hope, or great spirit. You don’t have to use the “G” word.

If even the idea of a spirit makes you cringe, there’s always the practice of mindfulness meditation. This practice involves concentrating on being aware of the present moment without thought to the past or future. You focus on becoming completely attuned to the physical moment—every sound, sight, color, and texture, without judging as to whether something is good or bad. This practice doesn’t require you to believe in anything other than the physical world around you, but it can go a long way to calming and quieting the mind. In the end, that’s what prayer and meditation are all about; a little peace and quiet.

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