Dear Dr. Levister: Are there any health benefits to meditation and prayer? A.P.

Dear A.P.: Many people practice meditation or prayer as way to help them relax and feel at peace. According to a 2014 Pew Research Poll, over half of Americans pray every day. A 2012 poll found that over 75 percent of Americans believe that prayer is an important part of daily life. Other polls indicate that even some atheists and religiously unaffiliated individuals admit that they sometimes pray and meditate to offset the negative health effects of stress.

But what even the most devout may not know is that both meditation and prayer have scientifically proven health benefits. When you meditate or pray, the activity of your brain moves from the right frontal cortex (where stress lives) to the calm left frontal cortex.

The resultant feeling of relaxation slows down your breathing. When you breathe 6 breaths a minute, your breath becomes aligned with rhythms in the heart, and this is good for cardiovascular health.

Some mental benefits include greater creativity, decreased anxiety and depression, improved learning and memory, and increased happiness and emotional stability.

Both peace of mind and happiness are true benefits of meditation and prayer. Everyone is seeking happiness in their lives, and when you’re able to find peace of mind through prayer and meditation, you’re also welcoming happiness into your life.

By spending some time in personal reflection, you’ll gain a greater wisdom of your mission in this life, and you’ll be better able to appreciate all that you’ve been given, both good and bad. Meditation and prayer help banish those negative thoughts that threaten your peace of mind.

The more you pray or meditate the greater all these benefits will be. So find a peaceful place to sit and relax. Clear your mind. Breathe. Pray or meditate. You’ll likely experience a peaceful feeling almost immediately, but you’ll also gain long-term boons to your health that few other hobbies can offer.

Other physical benefits include anti-aging, deep rest, decreased blood pressure, higher skin resistance, and easier breathing.