Did you know that most people around the world experience anxiety at some point of time in life? In fact, a 2017 study revealed that 14% of people in developing countries suffered from mental health disorders. Amongst these, 49 million people suffered from anxiety while about 45.7 million suffered from depressive conditions. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened such mental health problems across all ages. Sounds gloomy, doesn’t it? But hope comes in the form of prayer and spirituality.
Well, even if you are not too religious, prayer for anxiety and depression has the power to alleviate and heal if you are facing mental turmoil.
What is depression and anxiety?
Depression and anxiety are mood disorders that lead to many emotional and physical problems. Moreover, it affects how you think, feel and behave towards various situations and people. Anxiety and depression can lead to recurrent feelings of sadness and an inability to enjoy or take interest in activities. Depression may hamper your normal daily routine, and in the worst-case scenario, may also push you towards self-harm.
Below are some symptoms of depression and anxiety that you need to watch out for:
- Sleep disorders such as sleeplessness or sleeping too much
- Feeling of tiredness or fatigue and a general lack of energy
- Loss of appetite and weight loss or weight gain and increased appetite
- Inability to focus or concentrate, remember things or make decisions
- Restlessness, agitation or angry outbursts and irritability
- Psychosomatic manifestations such as headache, backache and persistent fever
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicidal attempts
Though, there are many things that you can do to overcome such feelings including yoga, meditation, and balancing your nutrition, prayer for anxiety and depression is one of the simplest yet effective way to overcome the blues.
How does praying help depression and anxiety?
Spirituality and prayer help ease anxiety and depression, acting as a protective shield in times of distress. You are likely to feel a sense of peace, meaning and connection when you bow or kneel to offer prayers to a higher power. Prayer for depression and anxiety has physiological benefits such as calming of the cardiovascular function and reduction of stress.
In fact, as per a 2012 study published in the National Library of Medicine, when people with depression and anxiety prayed regularly for about a year, they experienced significantly less anxiety and depression along with heightened awareness of spiritual experience and more optimism. This strengthens the belief that prayer for anxiety and depression truly holds a healing potential.
Prayer for depression and anxiety may protect or improve your emotional health in the following ways.
- Give a bigger sense of purpose: Regular spiritual practice can give you meaning and a sense of purpose beyond your day-to-day life.
- Offer social support: We all know that anxiety and depression are often by-products of social isolation or lack of social support. However, praying can help you become a part of community-based groups of like-minded people and forge social connections. For instance, as per a 2014 study published in the Geriatrics and Gerontology International, older adults in Thailand who had strong Buddhist networks, functioned better in their day-to day lives. Hence, prayer for healing anxiety and depression can enrich your life in more ways than one.
- Lift your spirits: Spiritual practice and community involvement are intrinsic to many spiritual organisations such as ‘The Brahmakumaris’, ‘The Art of Living Foundation’ and ‘International Society for Krishna Consciousness’ (ISKCON). Music, singing and chanting of mantras all are believed to have positive effects on people suffering from mental health problems. As per a 2012 study published in the Ecancermedicalscience, cancer patients and their caregivers who participated in a choir, experienced reduced anxiety and depression.
- Helps cope with life’s contingencies: Spirituality or prayer for anxiety and depression offers a framework for coping with life’s exigencies or negative events. For example, a 2012 study published in Depression Research and Treatment suggested that regular praying helps alleviate symptoms of depression when faced with the loss of a dear one.
- Lowered depression and anxiety: Prayer for anxiety and depression has a scientific backing. A 2009 study suggested that six-weekly prayer sessions with people at a primary care centre helped improve their optimism while lowering their anxiety and depression symptoms.
Besides the above emotional and mental health benefits, prayer for anxiety and depression also has better physiological outcomes such as lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels, reduced blood pressure and enhanced immunity.
Mantras as part of prayer for anxiety and depression
Have you ever stepped inside a place of worship like a Buddhist Pagoda and seen people chanting mantras repeatedly? Well, did you feel an almost instant and indescribable peace on hearing these sounds? No matter what issues you might be facing, once you enter such a place, your mind delinks and detaches from the worries that might be plaguing you. Just like a prayer, mantras are sacred and must be listened to or chanted with reverence.
Prayers for someone with depression and anxiety are incomplete without the chanting of certain specific mantras. Mantras form an intrinsic part of prayers, especially in a country like India where mantras are a part of aartis, havans and other ritualistic ceremonies.
Chanting not just calms your mind but also helps in letting your focus your thoughts and prevents stray thoughts from disturbing your practice.
References of mantras can be found in ancient religious texts such as Vedas too. Mantras as part of a meditation or prayer ritual can harness the inseparable human interconnection to sound.
Scientific benefits of chanting mantras for mental health
Chanting mantras as form of a prayer for anxiety and depression is said to have scientific benefits pertaining to depression and anxiety.
- As per a 2016 study, 72 chanters who chanted the universal word ‘Om’ for 10 minutes experienced reduced anxiety, depression and stress. Moreover, the subjects experienced feelings of social inclusion along with positive mood and enhanced attention, all markers of emotional health.
- A 2017 paper also showed that following the correct technique of chanting mantras can help reduce the physical markers of anxiety such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can also send more oxygen to your brain.
- A study published in 2018 in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggested that chanting mantras helped to treat anxiety and depression in war veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
List of the best mantras as prayers for anxiety and depression
Here are some mantras that can be incorporated into a prayer for depression and anxiety.
Om Namah Shivaya
This mantra is highly effective and powerful when it comes to balancing our minds while fighting the negativities of life. Chanting this mantra with reverence and faith can aid in deep relaxation from worldly worries, thereby making it a part of a meditative prayer for anxiety and depression.
Om Namo Bhag-Va-Te Va-Su-De-Vaya
This hymn consisting of 12 syllables is a liberating mantra prayer for depression that helps not only in liberating you from worldly concerns, but also brings relief from anxiety and depression while improving overall health.
A shanti mantra is a prayer for peace, often chanted before or after ceremonies or rituals. Many people experience peace engulfing them after they begin chanting ‘Om shantih shantih shantih’ as part of meditation or prayer. Chanting the shanti mantra three times is believed to bring peace to our minds. This mantra as a part of prayer for anxiety has the ability to relax the mind and cure anxiety related sleeplessness.
This chant can also be likened to a prayer for anxiety and depression. The ‘So Hum’ mantra is said to calm anxiety and relieve mental tension. Repetition of the mantra for about 3 to 21 times can help you feel calm, centred and relaxed. Find the audio of this chant here.
Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra
‘Mrityu’ denotes death in Sanskrit while ‘jay’ signifies victory. This mantra serves as a powerful chant prayer for anxiety and depression. This mantra is practised to calm a restless mind and exercise willpower. The ‘Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra’ as a form of anxiety prayer denotes victory over all kinds of fear, stress, anxiety, health problems and other unforeseen circumstances. You can also simply listen to this mantra prayer if you feel that you cannot chant this mantra correctly. Find an audio version of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra here.
Self-help affirmations to deal with anxiety and depression
Apart from the mantras mentioned above, which predominantly stemmed from the Sanskrit language and Hindu religion, you can also practise some self-affirmations that can be as good as a prayer for anxiety and depression and help you sail through hard times.
One day at a time
Practise this affirmation when you have an exam to take the next day or have a long to-do list to tackle. By repeating this affirmation, you can appease your mind that you need to get through only a small window of time to ease the pressure. This type of affirmation works well when you are overwhelmed with tasks that trigger anxiety.
I am not my thoughts
This affirmation can become a part of your positive self-talk or your version of depression prayer. Negative self-talk, a depression symptom, can make it difficult to rationalise thoughts and look ahead. You can gain positive perspective by picking and choosing optimistic thoughts.
Alternatively, you can write down positive affirmations like ‘tomorrow is another day’ or ‘I will be well again’ as part of your self-authored prayer for anxiety and depression. You can then read this writeup aloud, though in privacy, to a higher power that you respect.
No matter which religion or faith you belong to, any act of talking to the almighty can be deemed as a prayer. A prayer for anxiety and depression may also include chanting of mantras and affirmations besides following the customary rituals of each faith. But remember that while prayer may have a powerful placebo effect while dealing with mental health conditions, its role in treating ailments like anxiety and depression for good might be limited. In this case, experts suggest relooking your lifestyle and turning towards natural remedies such as balanced nutrition, meditation, and yoga to induce calmness and relaxation.
It is advisable to seek professional medical help if you are facing serious issues like depression. Spirituality and prayer can supplement conventional treatments like therapy and medication to treat mental health disorders.