This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living" by Dale Carnegie. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What role does religion play in your life? Do people who practice some form of religion or spirituality tend to be happier and more at peace with themselves?
According to psychologist Dale Carnegie, religion and belief in a higher power is a powerful buffer against worries and stresses of life. Even if you don’t subscribe to traditional religion, you can still find a higher power and a type of prayer. Your prayers might look like: meditation, journaling, writing messages in bottles, or simply speaking them aloud to the universe.
Here is how religion can help you alleviate worry and live a happier, more fulfilling life.
Dale Carnegie on Religion
The role of a higher power and faith in your life shouldn’t be based on the belief that your religion is “the” religion or a comparison between the values of your religion and others. Rather, religion should show up in your life as something that makes your life better and happier, and helps you renew the spiritual values that give you inner strength and courage, hope, satisfaction with your life, and purpose.
Religion and prayer are strong forces against the worry and stresses of everyday life—and of course, the physical symptoms of worry. This is because prayer fulfills three worry-alleviating needs:
- It helps you articulate your worries. It’s impossible to work through a problem when you don’t fully understand what the problem really is. When you process your worries aloud in prayer, you’re able to work through them and find the core issue.
- It allows you to share your worries and feel less alone. Worries and problems are heavy—especially when you’re carrying them alone. Unloading your worries to a higher being gives you the sense of sharing the weight, which makes it feel more manageable. This is especially applicable to problems that you don’t feel that you can share with another person because they’re particularly shameful or intimate.
- It spurs action. If you’re asking for an answer to your prayers, you’ll naturally start making changes in your life that will help bring the prayer to fruition.
- For example, if you pray that your unemployment ends, you’ll likely start applying for more jobs and more actively trying to make connections within your network.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t consider the importance of faith and religion until we’re absolutely in need of it—that is, when we’re in deep trouble, in an extremely worrying situation, or completely shattered in a mental or physical sense. Instead, we should be practicing religion…religiously. It’s easy to forget to reflect on spirituality within the context of a busy life, but it’s important to regularly find a moment to think of your spirituality and connect with it.
- One simple way to do this is to simply take a moment to close your eyes and pray in your own way, especially reflecting on the eternity of the universe and your connection to it.
Taking a quick moment of quiet reflection can make you more relaxed and calm, remind you of your small place in the world, and realigns you with your values. Furthermore, it can energize and motivate you because it connects and reassigns your mortal needs to an immortal and infinite power, making your needs feel more achievable.
(Shortform note: Read our summary of The Power of Positive Thinking to learn different ways to effectively practice prayer.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full How to Stop Worrying and Start Living summary:
- What worry is and how it manifests both physically and mentally
- How to deal with worry about work, finances, and criticism
- How to cultivate a less worried mindset