The Rosary — The (Not So) Secret to Happiness

Last week at work I had the privilege of attending a class on the science of happiness.  I find topics about brain and neuroscience fascinating probably because I haven’t studied it to death.  A two hour seminar from a former software developer fits nicely into my mosaic of brian knowledge formed from Ray Kurzweil books and Wired magazine articles.

Why would my company want me to learn about the science of happiness?  According to various studies and polls, happy people are about 12 to 25% more productive in their work.  Furthermore, much of what makes people happy revolves around them choosing actions that lead towards happiness.  Therefore, a company has a vested interest in its employees choosing routines that lead to happiness and hence, more productivity.

I’m going to spare you the details of the seminar.  If you want to learn more, just go to HappyBrainScience.com.  I bring up this seminar for one reason — readers of RosaryMeds already know many of the choices that lead to happiness.  For example, in the class we learned about the value of meditation as a way to combat the negative effects of stress.  Guess what?  Many of us who pray the rosary regularly already experience the positive effects rosary meditation has on combating the stress of everyday life.  I’ve mentioned a study in a previous post about the cardiovascular benefits of rosary prayer.  I’ve also talked about how people are happiest when they find “flow” or are “in the zone.”  Many people who pray the rosary regularly find it comforting because they can more easily get in the zone of deep meditation and prayer.

Going back to my happiness seminar, I also learned how we all have a bias towards focusing on the negative.  I think we all know how difficult it is to concentrate or be happy in a group of people if you find even just one person in that group annoying.  Instead of focusing on the people whose company we enjoy or the good situations around us, we too often dwell on what’s wrong and foment a bitterness, if not an outright hatred, of those people who we don’t get along with for some reason or another.  Similarly, we also tend to dwell on our weaknesses more than our strengths.  “I’m overweight.”  “I’m not smart enough.”  “I work too slowly.”  “I don’t have enough patience.”  “I don’t have enough energy.”  Sound familiar?

When I heard about our negative bias and some of the tricks to combat it (you can get a taste of it from the HappyBrainScience blog), I immediately thought this all sounded vaguely familiar.  I then remembered the introduction to my rosary book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, where I explained the main benefit I get from rosary prayer — perspective.  Praying the rosary helps me understand that all the negative things in life we often dwell on aren’t that big of a deal in the big picture.  By praying the rosary every day, I manage to keep all my problems, stresses, and worries in perspective.  Rosary prayer also reminds me of God’s awesome power to forgive me for all my mistakes, no matter how big.  Rosary prayer reminds me that the Holy Spirit is present and always trying to lead me on the path of true happiness.  Rosary prayer reminds me that no matter how terrible the world appears, there is hope for a better tomorrow.

A rosary crucifix.
This can bring more happiness than winning any lottery.

Not all of us can attend a happiness seminar.  But you don’t have to attend one or buy a “secret of life” type book to start choosing a lifestyle that yields increased happiness.  Want to be happier?  Turn off the TV and computer, silence your phone, pick up a rosary, and pray!  Oh, and reading my rosary book and telling others about this website wouldn’t hurt ;-).

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Coming Soon: Free Kindle Edition of my Rosary Guide

51Jfa8esBjL._BO2204203200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-clickTopRight35-76_AA278_PIkin4BottomRight-6422_AA300_SH20_OU01_Did you promise to pray more, be better about practicing your faith, or resolve to start connecting with your spiritual side? As some of you know from previous RosaryMeds articles, I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions as they are usually just promises no one actually keeps. But at the same time, I know that people do make them and if your New Year’s resolution involves improving your prayer life, I want to help.

Next week I’m going to offer the Kindle edition of my rosary guide, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, for free. For three days only (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) you will be able to download it to your tablet, Kindle reader, or computer and it won’t cost you a dime. Already have the book? This the perfect opportunity to tell your friends, family, and fellow parishioners about it so they can pick up a great praying resource at no cost.

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The Physical Benefits of Rosary Meditation

The power of the rosary never ceases to amaze me.  In my daily travels around the internet, I came across this post about the cardiovascular benefits of rosary meditation.  Any long time follower of RosaryMeds knows that I’ve touted the spiritual benefits of rosary prayer.  Increasing one’s physical health should be a nice little extra to motivate you to whip out your rosary beads and get started on those Hail Marys.

rosary

Here is a summary of the findings from Our Lady’s Promise Apostolate Blog (here’s a link to the full study for your science and medical geeks out there):

Luciano Bernardi, associate professor of internal medicine at Pavia University, recorded breathing rates in 23 healthy adults during normal talking, recitation of the rosary, yoga mantras, and six minutes of controlled breathing.

Breathing was markedly more regular during the rosary and the mantra and was slowed to about six breaths a minute. The results mean yoga enhances ‘aspects’ of heart and lung function and might be viewed as a health practice as well as a religious practice, he said.

The benefits of breathing exercises in yoga have long been reported, and mantras may have evolved as a simple device to slow respiration, improve concentration, and induce calm, Professor Bernardi says in this week’s British Medical Journal.

I’ve long said that praying the rosary is spiritual exercise.  But rosary prayer is also physical exercise.  And like any exercise, it’s important to show good form to maximize benefits.  This is what I said in my rosary prayer guide, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, about the connection between prayer and exercise:

It is important that you pray the rosary earnestly. If this is your first time praying the rosary regularly then please set aside some time so you can really concentrate. Going back to the exercise analogy, you cannot expect to get into great shape physically by working out half heartedly. You cannot do one poorly-formed pushup once a week and eat junk food and expect to be in super shape. Similarly, you need to develop good form for praying the rosary, especially in the beginning. Starting anything new and different can be a challenge initially. Think of praying the rosary as spiritual boot camp where you need to put in a lot of effort up front to give your spiritual life a jolt. But once you find your rhythm, the benefits of prayer really start to multiply. Once you are comfortable praying the rosary then it becomes much easier to integrate it throughout the day if you like.

So the benefits of rosary prayer is not just the seemingly random ramblings of this blog, but are backed up by the Church and the medical community.  If you are thinking of buying some new workout gear this year or starting a new fitness plan, perhaps you should add a rosary and my book to your shopping list.  Your mind, body, and soul will thank you.

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Christmas Bells Are Ringing

It’s that time of year again where we crawl deep into our garages and take out all the Christmas lights and decorations.  I’m always excited each year to see if the outdoor decorations I bought the year before at a discount (since I buy them after December 25th) will actually work.  This year, a lit snowman backed by candy cane lights graced our front lawn to keep our Christmas polar bear company.  Of course, the Christmas season is also about shopping.  I know that we all say Christmas shouldn’t be about gifts, but chances are you will need to buy presents for at least one person.  I’m going to tell you how you can shop for Christmas gifts online while supporting RosaryMeds and without it costing you an extra cent.

Do you know why blog websites display ads for various online retailers?  Whenever you follow a link from a blog site to an online store and purchase something, that blog site gets a little payment from that online store as a small “thank you” for referring someone’s business.  This is called affiliate marketing.  I know that term gets a lot of bad press since most people associate it with pyramid, MLM, work-at-home, and “get rich quick” schemes.  But it’s a legitimate way many blogs try to cover their costs (hosting, domain registration, site design expenses, etc.).  The great thing about affiliate links is that they require you, the customer, to do nothing differently except initially go to the website via a special link from the blog site.  You just purchase items that you were going to buy anyway, but the blog site gets a small payment.  I try my best to be selective about who I partner with and only promote sites and products that I personally like and relate to the overall themes of RosaryMeds — the Catholic faith, rosary meditation, and prayer.

For example, you might want to consider buying something from Mystic Monk Coffee.  This coffee is actually roasted by Carmelite monks in Wyoming as part of their vow of daily labour.   It’s the only coffee we brew in my house.  Sure, I could go to the market or Starbucks and pick up a bag of dark-roasted beans.  But I feel good knowing that when I buy Mystic Monk coffee I’m helping support a monastery and people who dedicate their lives to praying for others like you and me.  And when brewed correctly, it tastes great to boot.  Do you have a coffee drinker on your gift list?  Consider Mystic Monk.

Another Catholic online retailer that is near and dear to my heart is Ignatius Press.  To be honest, it is sometimes a love/hate relationship particularly when they send me their catalogue in the mail.  The frustration comes from the fact that they offer so many interesting books and videos that there aren’t enough hours in the day to read them all.  Just to name a few titles that look interesting to me — 50 Questions on the Natural Law, A Biblical Walk Through the Mass, The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church, and Modern Moral Problems.  Do you have an avid reader or movie watcher on your gift list?  Consider buying something from Ignatius Press.

Of course, in my humble opinion (wink, wink), one of the best gifts you can give yourself or others is a copy of my book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us: A Practical Guide to our Most Powerful Prayer.  I saw a huge gap in the types of rosary books available to aspiring prayer warriors.  The books are either extremely basic; giving only small paragraph descriptions of each mystery and not even much reflection.  Other rosary books are incredibly dense with a lot of scholarly analysis and history of the rosary.  That might make for good reading, but does it make for better praying?  My book focuses on helping you get the most out of actually praying the rosary, not just learning its history or the story behind each mystery.  Do you know someone who could use a little rosary prayer?  Consider The Rosary for the Rest of Us.

So there you go — three great Christmas gift ideas.  Follow the links to those online stores from this post or on from the banners on the left-hand sidebar of the RosaryMeds website as a way of showing your appreciation for either my articles or my book.  And, speaking for bloggers everywhere, if you do intend on purchasing something online this Christmas, check and see if your favourite blog has an affiliate link to the sites that have the items you want.  It’s a great way of saying “thank you” to the blogs that you enjoy visiting without requiring any extra effort or money.

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This is Your Brain… On Prayer

I tried to put together a good “election day and the rosary” type of article but nothing quite seemed to come together. There are plenty of good websites out there that have more time, writers, and other resources to discuss politics and the election through a religious lens. So RosaryMeds election coverage is simply this — read the USCCB‘s Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility and, with a well-formed conscience, seriously consider which candidate will best support the values espoused by the Catholic faith. And while no candidate is ever perfect (after all, Jesus isn’t running for president), think about who will be the most open to legislation that supports, not attacks, your values. And this doesn’t just go for the presidential election, but also keep this in mind when selecting congressional, state, and local officials as well since many times they can have a much more dramatic impact on your life than the president.

Brain on PrayerIn this post I want to discuss your brain on prayer. I came across this short, three-minute video that I found very interesting. The main premise is that a brain in deep prayer shows similar activity as conversing with someone. Neurologically, there is no difference to our brain when we talk to God in prayer or physically with someone right in front of us. Now the critic would look at this data and conclude, ‘I knew it! Catholics and other religious are no different from people experiencing hallucinations or having imaginary friends!” But the critic would be wrong as any prayerful person can attest that we don’t hear real voices in our head telling us what to do when we pray. But there is a very real dialogue going on.

This goes to one of my main themes of RosaryMeds and my book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, about the benefits of rosary prayer. At its root, rosary meditation is a dialogue with God either directly or through the intercession of Mary and the saints. This is what makes the rosary such a powerful prayer. You aren’t just talking into the void. There is someone listening on the other end and He does respond. It’s not a response in that drug-induced, “there are voices in my head” sort of way. It’s something deeper and less tangible (but still observable as the brain scans in the video show). God responds to our prayers when we suddenly have some sort of clarity on a difficult decision. He responds to us when we find that strength to do the right thing even when doing the wrong thing would be easier. He responds when we realize that some of our daily worries are trivial compared to our spiritual health.  These are just a few examples of how our brain changes during prayer as a result of having a conversation with God.

An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in...The First Sorrowful Mystery, The Agony in the Garden, best shows the nature of prayer as a dialogue. Before the Pharisees arrested Jesus, He prayed to God. Jesus first asked God to find another way to redeem humanity besides Him suffering on the cross. But Jesus also showed humility and just asked for the strength to do God’s Will. But where was the dialogue? After all, there were many instances in the Gospel when God spoke as a thundering voice in the clouds. It may seem that Jesus was just speaking into nothingness in the garden of Gethsemane when he was arrested. But God did respond! He gave Jesus the strength to endure the scourging, the crown of thorns, the cross, and crucifixion. He gave Jesus clarity to forgive those who crucified Him in His final minutes of agony on the cross. And God responded by empowering the apostles, through the Holy Spirit, to spread the teachings and love that Jesus showed in His death and resurrection to the far ends of the world for generations to follow. Jesus asked God for the strength to do His Will. God heard loud and clear and responded.   The over one billion Catholics worldwide bare witness to God’s response to Jesus’s prayer.

We should remember this sentence from the Memorare when we pray the rosary: “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession, was left unaided.” Our prayers are heard by God in Heaven, the saints, and our Mother Mary. And they do respond but not always in the way we expect. We should pray for the faith to truly believe this great truth and take advantage of talking to God in prayer.  He’s waiting for you to pick up that spiritual phone and call Him!

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Sticky: The Rosary for the Rest of Us

It’s here!  After a year of careful assembly, I’m proud to announce my first-ever, self-published book, “The Rosary for the Rest of Us: A Practical Guide to Our Most Powerful Prayer.”  Inspired by the articles on RosaryMeds, this book should help you get so much more out of your rosary prayers.  Full of meditations, intentions, and illustrations on all 20 mysteries, this book has a little something to boost everyone’s rosary prayers.  This will make the perfect companion to anyone who prays the rosary (or wants to start praying the rosary).  On sale now!

I want to acknowledge and thank everyone who helped make my goal of becoming a published author a reality.  I could not have done this without my editors — Barbara, Linda, Rebecca, Voytek, and Zofia.  Thanks for taking the time to read the book and provide feedback.  I also want to thank Jakub.  Originally, I was going to turn my rosary postings on this site into a pdf file and just distribute it as an ebook through the RosaryMeds website.  It was Jakub who urged me to publish it “for real” and make it available to a wider audience.  And so, now this book is available on Amazon in paperback and will hopefully be on the Kindle soon.

I really don’t know what to expect from this book now that’s its gone live.  Sometimes the delusional side of me envisions interviews on EWTN Catholic radio or the Catholic San Francisco newspaper writing a review on my book.  I would love to be at Mass and see someone with the book tucked under their arm or hear that rosary prayer groups are using it.  More realistically, it would be nice if enough people bought the book to cover operating costs of RosaryMeds.  But honestly, I will be enthused if this book motivates someone to pray the rosary who otherwise would not.  I truly hope that my efforts will bring at least one new person into the world of the rosary.

Just in time for Christmas.  Here are just a few ideas for purchasing “The Rosary for the Rest of Us”:

  • Stocking stuffer for someone on your gift list
  • Combine it with the purchase of a rosary to create the ultimate rosary prayer kit
  • Us it to pad your Amazon order for free shipping

Order it now, either from the CreateSpace eStore or Amazon, to get it by Christmas.

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