You Docs: Feel the spirit
MICHAEL ROIZEN, M.D., and MEHMET OZ, M.D.render.htm?m=222832817&width=320&height=213&keepAspect=true

Posted: 12/13/2010 12:30 AM

Whether you meditate or say the rosary, sit in simple silence or shout out ecstatic praise to the heavens, 90 percent of us pray — and more than half of us do it daily.

Of course, what you pray for and whether the heavens deliver varies widely. No prayer can make you skinny, erase wrinkles or get teenagers to clean their rooms voluntarily (though we’re open to miracles).

Research on how prayer affects others is conflicting and controversial, although new, headline-grabbing data suggest that praying for others might improve their physical health – if the sender and the receiver are right beside each other. What is clear: Your spiritual health is somehow hard-wired to your physical well-being. Contemplate these:

1. Going to religious services, it turns out, can protect against age-related memory loss and thinking problems.

2. Weekly attendance at services and regular religious study at home may cut your risk for high blood pressure by 40 percent. Going more often than weekly may nudge your systolic blood pressure down by three points.

3. Sending up a simple prayer for your mate’s well-being could help you feel less wronged and more ready to forgive.

4. People who go to services more than once a week have half the risk of major depression as those who attend less often.

5. Regular prayer increases your concern for other people, say researchers from Florida State University, which could help you make your part of the world a brighter, better place.

6. Stressed out? Focusing on your spiritual values can quiet the anterior cingulate cortex – a collection of hair-trigger brain cells that fires up when things start going wrong in your life, raising your stress levels.

7. Thinking about God or other spiritual beliefs keeps you calm under fire, according to new research from the University of Toronto.