Brain Responds to Religion Positively (Research Finds)

These days we are being constantly told that religions are violent. It is a good reason to not practice any of them. Logically, this means that we should also reject science because it has been contributing to the violence more than all the religions combined by allowing us to kill more people than ever with its deadly weapons. Enough of silly criticisms. Let's switch to something that makes religions positive. Science has good news for all those who are Christian, Muslim, Jewish or even practicing Wiccan.

There are benefits to practicing religion. Science concludes that it helps fight against diseases. But how and why? The newest research has the answer to these questions. Scientists have finally found out that religion brings changes to brain. What makes this more fascinating is that it is backed up by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Studies Done Before
Before we move onto the brain part, here are some prior research findings about how religion helps mental health.

1. Research done in Hungary after the fall of Communism showed that people who practiced religion collectively had better mental and physical health. Surprisingly, those who practiced their religions individually had worse mental  health than those who were atheist. Similar findings were noted from research done on population of Texas and Israel. The conclusion is that better mental health has high correlation with rituals done in social settings.

2. What happens when someone very strict about his religious practices and abstinence starts to gradually say yes to all that he considered forbidden? Examples are drugs and alcohol. One research done in 2000 on elderly population reveals that such case makes it difficult for the deviated person to go back to his religion. To make things worse, he may end up with severe drug addiction problem, ruining his mental health and social life.

3. By the year 2000, hundreds of studies were already completed on the connection between religions and depression. 66.67 percent of them showed that those who were most religious had less or no depression symptoms.

4. In Canada, researchers observed 865 patients of depression for up to 24 weeks to find out how quickly they went to the road of healing. The conclusion derived  was that those who turned to religions and prayed regularly were able to get their depression healed 50 percent quicker than those who practiced no religion.

5. Multiple studies have proven that those who are seriously ill can cope with its pain better through prayers. These studies, however, are more connected to organized religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Can someone achieve this similar result from spirituality related to wicca or anything new age? Research done in Twain says yes. Those who believe in karma, goddesses and regularly participate in spiritual rituals have the power to cope with painful incidents and illnesses just like those who are practicing organized religions.

6.  Regularly attending religious services boosts life expectancy. This conclusion was drawn from data of 95,000 women. No explanation accompanies the finding. We can presume that those who socially practice religions tend to be more conscious about their health, appearance and habits because they wish to avoid remarks from church goers they meet regularly. The setting must also be taken into account. In a positive environment, people are more eager to help one another.  Lastly, almost all religions promote healthy lifestyle and recommend discipline.

Neurology and Religion
As you just saw, studies have proven that religions are good for health. Neurology has an answer to this now. Brain Cortex positively responds to religious activities. This is the latest finding that researchers from Columbia university has achieved after they took a look at magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of heads of 103 people in risk of suffering from depression. Earlier research proved that the this illness has connection to thinning of brain cortex. Usually, the stress that comes before the depression begins to attack this portion of the brain. The newest study shows that those who hold religions as very important parts of their lives are more capable than others in keeping the depression at bay. Also those who are already suffering from this mental illness can trigger the cortex to thicken by doing religious and spiritual activities like praying and meditating. No regular church, mosque, synagogue or temple attendance is required.

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