Saying a prayer for another person may help people control their negative emotions after being insulted by a stranger, researchers report.
A series of studies found that after people were intentionally provoked into anger, asking them to pray for a person who needs extra help or support (a cancer patient, for example), helped calm them down.
The researchers also suggested that the method seemed to be effective even in people who weren't particularly religious or regular churchgoers. Nor did religious affiliation make a difference in the ability of prayer to calm people, although nearly all participants identified themselves as Christian, according to the report published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
"People often turn to prayer when they're feeling negative emotions, including anger," said study co-author Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. "We found that prayer really can help people cope with their anger, probably by helping them change how they view the events that angered them and helping them take it less personally."
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