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Chapter 11 - Meditation, Prayer and Healing

A Neuroscience Perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 October 2022

Christopher C. H. Cook
Affiliation:
Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University
Andrew Powell
Affiliation:
Formerly Warneford Hospital and University of Oxford
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Summary

Traditional Western science has had little interest in the concept of mind, and has only recently begun to recognise the relationship between spirituality and health. A better understanding of mind has allowed us to establish the scientific concepts behind the spiritual dimension of healing, and the close correlation between religious and spiritual practice and positive changes in a number of stress-related physiological systems. Meditation and prayer have both been shown to improve brain function, and together with practices such as forgiveness and positive thinking, and a supportive social structure, have been shown to benefit both mental and physical health. Meditation has particular clinical applications in those conditions where high arousal and anxiety are a part of the pathology. Controlled studies of prayer have produced mixed outcomes, but prayer is a widespread religious practice and may have positive effects on the person praying – for example, in terms of pain relief.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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