9 Natural Pain Relievers

Here’s an excuse to stay in bed this weekend with no guilt:

Man listening music in headphone and sleeping in embrace with laptop on the sofa

Logging extra hours of sleep can reduce pain sensitivity and increase daytime alertness, according to a study published in the journal SLEEP. The small study included 18 healthy—but mildly sleepy—adults between the ages of 21-35. Their level of sleepiness and pain sensitivity (how quickly they moved their fingers off a hot source) were measured before and after the study. Half the participants stayed in bed for 10 hours per night for four nights, while the other half continued their normal sleep habits. Not surprisingly, the group who stayed in bed longer slept an average of 1.8 hours more than the other group, which led to increased alertness. But the group who slept in also showed a 25% decrease in pain sensitivity by the fourth day!

How does it work? When you take healthy people and you deprive them of sleep, you increase the amount of pain receptors in the blood system,. This suggests that extra sleep potentially has an analgesic effect, particularly if you can do it in anticipation of the pain. Essentially, being well rested reduces that sensitivity.

So the next time you’re training for a marathon—or just planning for a week of awful cramps—sleep in for a few days. Here, 8 more ways to reduce pain without meds:

waterGet a massage

Treat sore muscles or back pain with a trip to the spa. A once-a-week massage treatment was found to be more effective at treating pain than regular medication, according to a 2011 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Stay hydrated

When your head is pounding, reach for water. Often headaches are brought on by dehydration. You may just need to gulp down a glass or two of water to fight off the throbbing (especially if it’s post-hangover pain).

Do a little yoga

7-Steps-to-a-Life-Long-Yoga-Practice-Youll-LoveMany people are in pain because their muscles are tight and contracted. So one of the most successful strategies is stretching. Sometimes it takes heat to relax the muscles. So hopping in a hot shower or bath before you get your om on can be even more effective.

Distract yourself

Focusing your attention on a difficult task—like reciting the ABCs backwards—can actually inhibit pain signals to the brain, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology. So the next time you’re getting a flu shot, try doing long division in your head for instant relief.

gingerAdd ginger to your meals

Ginger has been found to help with menstrual cramps, In fact, it’s as effective as an OTC pain reliever, according to a 2009 study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Mix it into your meals or add it to hot tea to fight PMS pain.

Focus on your breathing

Meditation can help relieve belly pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Take a few moments to bring your breathing rate down to six breaths per minute. That helps your body produce a relaxation response, your blood pressure comes down, and many people find their pain levels to be much more manageable.”

Turn up your music

Listening to your favorite tunes can actually reduce your pain, especially if you’re particularly anxious about it, according to a study published in The Journal of Pain. Freaking out while getting your blood drawn? Pop in your headphones and crank up the music, stat.

acupressureTry acupressure

Think of it as the less terrifying (and zero needles) approach to acupuncture. “In the last 10 years, a lot of people have been turning to acupressure,” says Bauer. “And many studies show that it’s nearly as effective as acupuncture.” Try one of the most basic pain-relieving moves by squeezing the fleshy area between your thumb and forefinger for one minute.

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20 Things People With Chronic Pain Can Relate To…

stevepb / Pixabay
Millions of people live with chronic pain every day in the US, and they struggle to do basic day-to-day things like getting dressed and going to the shop. Despite their constant pain, their voices are rarely heard by the media because they look ‘normal’ and it is difficult to see the cause of their pain.

Here are 20 things that people in chronic pain can relate to:

  1. We try very hard to look ‘normal’

    People often say to us that we don’t look sick, but it takes a lot of effort to look normal. We often have to nap before going out to deal with the exhaustion, and we normally take pain meds before meeting up with people.

  2. The pain won’t pass in a few days or weeks

    This isn’t a cold or the flu, and it won’t go away in a few weeks – we may live with the pain for our whole lifetime.

  3. It’s not all in our heads

    [Tweet “We are not hypochondriac’s; just because you can’t see the cause of our pain doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”]

  4. We have dreams and goals

    Just like anyone else, we have passions and dreams that we would like to achieve in our lives. We are not defined by our illness.

  5.  We are not making a big deal for no reason

    We are probably in more pain that you think we are in. It can be pretty difficult to understand chronic pain, and we don’t need your sympathy – we just want to know that you understand our situation.

  6. Sometimes it is impossible to get out of bed in the morning

    Some days the pain is too bad to get out of bed, but we don’t let that get us down. In fact, we will probably Skype our friends or partners so we can have a giggle to take our mind off the pain.

  7. We hate being called lazy

    Every job is twice as hard if you’re experiencing chronic pain, so we don’t feel lazy – we feel super accomplished for getting dressed and going to the shops. Everyone experiences different challenges in life.

  8. Chronic pain doesn’t become less painful with time

    Pain doesn’t become less painful over time, but you become better at dealing with the pain. I am still in pain; I’m just not letting it rule my whole life.We don’t always have enough spoons
    Christine Miserandino, a woman with lupus, created the ‘spoons’ analogy to describe living with invisible pain.

  9. When you have chronic pain, you start each day with a certain amount of spoons.

    Every task, like making a sandwich, takes a spoon away from you. Once you have run out of spoons for the day, you cannot complete any more activities – your pain is too much. This analogy helps us to complete our tasks without exerting ourselves too much.
    [Tweet “PLEASE take the time to read  “The Spoon Theory” by Christine Miserandino this is probably the BEST essay to help you understand chronic pain!”]

  10. If we don’t work, it is because we can’t

    We don’t shy away from work; in fact, we would do anything to be healthy and able to work full-time. Sadly for some chronic pain sufferers, this just isn’t an option.

  11. Just standing in queues is uncomfortable and painful

    Having to hold your body in a certain place for even a few minutes can be extremely tiring and painful, and sometimes we have to ask our friends and families for help.

  12. Good days do happen

    Some days we wake up feeling better than normal, and we get super excited! Normally we will try to be productive and social on these days, because we don’t know when the next good day will be.

  13. So do bad days

    Some days are very painful, and on these days even going to the bathroom is a difficult task. On a day like this, brushing your teeth is a huge accomplishment!

  14. We feel guilty about not always replying to our friends

    Pain can be mentally exhausting, and sometimes it means we feel too tired and ill to reply to our friends. This makes us feel bad – we love our friends and we hate not replying, but thankfully our friends don’t take it personally when this happens.

  15. We are so thankful for the friends and family who are there for us

    Often we have to ask our loved ones for help with tasks like cooking and shopping, and we are so grateful for the help. Our friends are more than just friends; they are lifelines and saviours.

  16. Medical help can be frustrating

    It can take years to diagnose chronic pain due to a lack of training, and when we find an understanding doctor, we try to keep them in our lives for as long as possible.

  17.  We don’t seek drugs – we seek pain relief

    Sometimes chronic pain is treated with medical marijuana and opioids, but that doesn’t mean we seek drugs. We seek anything that will help us to control and manage our pain.

  18. We don’t need advice (unless you have chronic pain yourself)

    We really appreciate people who are trying to be helpful, but it can be mentally draining to repeatedly discuss the same pain-management methods. We always look out for ways to help manage the pain, so the likelihood is that we have already tried most suggestions.

  19. We hope to heal one day

    We don’t want to live our whole lives in pain – we want to heal and get better. We will always look out for answers and cures that could change our lives

  20. Love and support helps us to keep going

    From strangers and co-workers, the little gestures like offering to help with our bags can really help to make our lives easier.

Medical searches on Google

When you do a Google search for certain medical conditions, you can learn about their symptoms and treatments. This includes information from medical doctors about how common a condition is, whether it’s critical or contagious, the ages it usually affects, and more.

Get info about chronic pain

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7 Rules to My Life, My Way!

I have lived with major depression, PTSD, ADD, Fibromyalgia throughout my life. I’ve walked the dark streets when I had no home. The darkness of loneliness competing with the darkness of the night. Many times I failed, I was rejected and I got hurt physical and emotional. I have accepted my role in my personal failures caused by these conditions.

Now this is what I  did:

I pressed the pause button to my life, refreshed my memory and made a clear passionate decision to change myself.  I follow 7 rules to change my life…

I follow the advice of my inner self:

I have passion and empathy. I always love to learn new things. I have the interest and commitment to do what I love.  There will be no regret because I am responsible for my decisions and actions. 

We always fixate on physical strength. Mental strength makes our life focused, planned and loved.

Meditation recharges me:

I meditate every day to make life laser sharp and free from distraction. I fight every obstacle in my life. I have failed hundreds of times. But, I get back up. Meditation gives me the courage and determination to work against the current.

[Tweet “I meditate every day to make life laser sharp and free from distraction.”]

Mental strength is key:

We always fixate on physical strength. Mental strength makes our life focused, planned and loved. What makes a bigger impact than talent or intelligence? Mental strength.

Research is starting to reveal that your mental strength plays a more important role than anything else for achieving your goals. That’s good news because you can do a lot to develop mental strength.

Less virtual life, More real life:

I am limiting my online activities. I now key in on my real life rather than a virtual life. I spend too much time on the computer. I am changing that habit. I spend less time on the internet. I have started to gain courage, experience new things, face my fears, socialize with authentic interest, and talk with strangers every day.

[Tweet “Less virtual life, More real life:”]

Imagine just before – the moment of your death:

All the materialistic thinking, fear, desire, frustration, failure will look meaningless moments before your death. Make the right decision for your life, never wait for others approval. One right decision can change your life. Whenever I am in a trouble, I try to think that way. Then everything seems clear to me. I make the right choice.

I withdraw from rat race:

I have officially withdrawn myself from the rat race of life. It does not mean that I have lost against the difficulties of life. I don’t compete with other people. My competition is only with myself. Every day, I try to top my previous day’s performance. I am chasing my passion. I am determined to reach my goal.

[Tweet “I have officially withdrawn myself from the rat race of life.”]

Anonymous help and gifts:

I love to help anonymously. It gives me pleasure. I love to donate money to poor families anonymously despite having my own financial limitations. Helping people is the best part of life. I feel happy to see the smiling faces of those people.

Write a gratitude list every day:

I am grateful to the universe for whatever I get from life. I write a gratitude list in my journal every day. I am alive, having sound health, food to eat in the fridge, a place to live, the unconditional love of my service dog,  time and tools to write, lead an independent life, get blessings from unknown people…

[Tweet “I am grateful to the universe for whatever I get from life.”]

A year ago I would have never guessed life would be the way it is now.

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RikkiSpeaks – You Have To Trust Someone Somehow

As I boarded my first bus, tears filled my eyes…

I watched as my family pulled away which tore at all of my emotions. I knew I had to make this trip, there was no question in my mind. I was doing what was right, although it didn’t lessen my knowing how badly I would miss them.

My first stop was in an inner city bus stop. I was faced with an extremely long layover and was now surrounded by a hoard of strangers. Looking at my surroundings, I noticed that this stop never slept. I was not unlike the place, as there was no way I could have closed my eyes. For the longest time, I just watched, as people moved about and children cried. Every type of person, of every ethnic background, seemed to swallow me making me the minority. After all, I was traveling alone.

Originally, while learning it would take me twenty  three and a half hours to travel what should have taken me nine by car, I was a little bit scared. It was a typical response, as people fear what they do not know. I was no where near a seasoned bus traveler. I made sure to my luggage within arms reach, as I was unsure of what to expect. I felt that making it to my destination with clothing was the best route to take and I wanted no chance of not ensuring this simple thing.

After sitting for quite some time, and suffering waffle butt syndrome from the uncomfortable iron benches, I decided I had to move. Exhaustion had set in, and I just couldn’t stay seated anymore. Hauling my luggage with me, I made my way outside.

Being a very friendly person, I have always been able to speak to whomever I am around. Boredom caused me to do just that. I made conversation with several people. Some were a little more apprehensive of my open abilities to say “hello”, while others seemed somewhat thankful to have someone to talk to.

We all spoke of why we were making our way, to our final destinations. Some were traveling as far as across the country. There were people who were making a new start while others decided simply to meet family and friends on the other side. There were even full families taking a quick vacation together. I, myself, was heading to help my very ill father.

I looked in the eyes of these people, from all walks of life, and found a little of myself in each of them. Oddly we were, after all, in this together. The more people I met, the more I felt responsible to watch out for each of them. Strangely, they all felt the same about me.

I had taken a couple of young fellas under my wing. The pair had met on a bus, and made it a point to watch out for each other. I decided to take care of them because I found them to be unworldly and it seemed they had no idea what to expect from life. We spoke of the girlfriends they had left behind, and they had asked for my advice on love and other topics. They listened as I vented about my fears of what I would learn when I got to my father’s hospital room. After a long while, they both became very tired and I agreed to watch their things, while they laid their young heads on a table and fell asleep. I woke them, when their bus was called, to ensure that they didn’t miss it. A small nod and wave and they were gone. Yet this time I didn’t feel so alone.

I had met a family who I connected with quickly. One of them won over my heart with her honest approach. She said to me, “I don’t understand why people steal luggage, because I don’t even want to lug mine, let alone someone else’s things.” Between giggles, I agreed. This family didn’t see me as a different color, nor did I them. We’d traded off luggage watching duties when each of us needed to get up and walk away. They had offered to feed me from the supplies that they had carried with them. I knew that their trip would be a long one, and yet they had offered to care for me from the little they had. I politely declined, knowing they would inevitably need it more than me, as they had many more mouths to feed. It didn’t change the fact that the offer had touched my soul.

A man who was seated on his luggage, beside the soda machine, passed me a handful of change from a purple Crown Royal drawstring bag. The money changer had met it’s demise and he saw me struggling to find enough change in my purse for a water. He refused to take any money in return, because as he had said, “my trip is now coming to an end, and yours has just begun.”

After boarding my next bus I met another man, who was a minister. He was heading to the same final stop as me. For the longest time, I listened as he spoke to the others on the bus, of God and His glory. He, then, began speaking to me and we quickly befriended each other.

Together, we’d made a layover in a very sketchy area. I had been speaking to some of the residents of the Indiana town we had stopped in. Those people were, without a doubt, some of the roughest people I had ever met.

There were two who I had made the acquaintance of at separate times during the stop. One had been assaulted by a bat and pipe, just days before, and wore the most terrible bruises I had ever seen. Another had been stabbed in the neck while falling asleep next to the town’s river bank. Curiosity took over and their broken bodies made me want to find out what had torn apart their souls. I had learned that drugs had been a part in each story and my heart broke for them. I reasoned that although they had made their own decisions in life they might not have been given any opportunity to avoid these mistakes. Each openly told me their stories and seemed comfortable in doing so. I reminded each of them that they had lived through their attacks, and were still here to tell about it. I challenged each of them to find the reason they had been given that second chance.

As I spoke to the people that everyone else would have shied away from the minister had later admitted that he had watched over me, the whole time, from afar.

As I stepped foot at my last stop, it occurred to me that I had been afraid for nothing. People are people no matter where you are. Everyone has a story to tell, although some are more sinister and terrifying than others. Some people just need someone to listen, and to care enough to give advice that no one else has the guts to give.

While becoming a bleary eyed traveler, I found I was never really alone. It is important, in life to remember that you have to trust someone sometime, even if it is someone that no one else would take the time to try to understand. No matter how soft or hardened the people were that I had met on my travels, just offering an ear and a heartfelt word seemed to sate the savage beast in all of them.

I shall board a bus again soon, to head back home. Though it will be heart wrenching leaving my father behind, I fear not the people I will encounter. Strangers are, after all, just friends I have yet to meet.

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Important Things in Life

I’m sure you have experienced a wake up call at some point in your life. Events such as a divorce, a new baby, a firing, a terrorist attack, or a near-death experience tend to hit us like a ton of bricks and are not easily forgotten.

Personally, what I find interesting is that implicit in the idea of a wake up call is that we have, in some sense, been asleep. What is it that we have been asleep to? When I think of wake up calls, the word that comes to mind is “priorities”. Wake up calls tend to make us stop, pull back from the runway of life, and consider exactly what it is that is important to us. Very often we realize that we have had our priorities upside down. Perhaps we have spent too much time at the office, too little time with our kids, or have neglected our health. So to answer my earlier question, it seems to me that many of us travel through life asleep to what really is important.If you are in a slumber, the following are some ideas to help you wake up and remember the important things in your life:

Connect to Your Own Mortality

Some may find it depressing to think about death, but it can actually be a great technique to improve your life. Try, for example, to imagine laying on your deathbed. What could potentially give you cause for regret? Would it be all the money you didn’t make? Or would it be the friendships you didn’t nurture, the time you didn’t spend with your family, and the places you didn’t see?

Now, consider if the way you now live your life will give you cause for any regrets when you do actually come to lay upon your deathbed.

Steve Jobs was a famous advocate of connecting to your own mortality. In his Commencement Speech at Stanford University, he said: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important thing I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Write a Personal Mission Statement

I admit to being one of those people who normally skips the exercises in self-help books. I did, however, decide to follow Stephen R. Covey’s advice in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and write a personal mission statement. In short, a personal mission statement is an individual statement of who you are, what you are about and what you value. The process of writing such a statement helps to clarify your inner-most thoughts and feelings, and once finished is something you can turn to for guidance.If you are interested in writing your own personal mission statement, I recommend Dr. Covey’s Mission Statement Builder.

Have a Meaningful Conversation with an Older Person

As you grow older, you naturally acquire experience and knowledge of what is important in life. For example, is there anything you could tell the “you” from 10 years ago that would make life easier? I’m sure there is. A great way then to acquire the wisdom that comes with age is to seek out an older person, such as a grandparent, and have a meaningful conversation with them. Ask them about their life, what they have learned, and what they would do differently. You may just find they experienced many of the thoughts and feelings you are currently when they were younger.

Meditate

Usually the problem is not that we don’t know what is important in life, but that it is forgotten as we get caught up in the everyday tasks that form life. One of the best methods I have found to overcome this problem is meditation. Meditation is a great way to relax both your mind and body. Such a state is ideal for gaining a better understanding of who you are and what you value.

Volunteer

It is easy in life to become consumed with your own sense of self importance. A very effective way to step back and see life in a greater context is to volunteer. For example, helping those with less than yourself will help you realize just how fortunate you really are. So often we act in such a way that we don’t already have the important things in life, when actually they are right under our nose

My Personal Mission Statement

Just as each person is unique, so will be their personal mission statement. That said, I believe we can find inspiration in the statements of others. The following is my personal mission statement.

  • I will be loving and proactive in building and maintaining my relationships with family and friends, so that I may be considered a successful husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and friend.
  • I will always act with integrity and never compromise with honesty, so that it may be said that I am a person who stands for what is just and right.
  • I will approach life with a curious nature, so that I am someone who continually strives to better understand both my inner and outer worlds.
  • I will look after my health by regularly exercising, eating well, and limiting the intake of anything that may be harmful to my body.
  • I will treat money as my servant, not as my master. I will seek financial independence over time. My wants will be subject to my needs and means. I will spend less than I earn and regularly save and invest part of my income.
  • I will try to help others live a better life by writing articles for my blog that are both inspiring and motivating.
  • When times are tough, I will remember there are still countless reasons I have to be thankful. As such, I will give something back to the community, via donation and volunteering, so that those less fortunate receive a helping hand.

Even just now, after having rewritten my personal mission statement above, I feel a sense of clarity and direction about my life.

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Love Is An Action Word

Sometimes, when we are in relationships, it is easy to become complacent and “let things be.” We start to really let our guards down (which is great!) but that can also mean becoming a bit lazy within the relationship. Maybe we don’t text each other during the day as much. Maybe we don’t ask if they want us to pick them up dinner on the way home from work or school. Maybe we throw our clothes all over the bedroom and shrug when they can’t find the bed.

Whatever our reasons are for getting too comfortable, it is important to be aware of the fact that showing each other respect and love is a daily ritual, one that never gets old. Here are some easy ways to show the one you care about that you actually care about them.

Compliment Your Lover

Sounds simple, right? But how often do you actually do this? It is much easier to make fun of their bed head or laugh at their expense than it is to give the one we care about the most some praise and positive reinforcement. The next time you see your partner do something nice, or look nice or say something sweet, recognize it and let them know that you are lucky to be with someone as awesome as they are. A little positivity can brighten up someone’s day exponentially!

Leave Them a Love Note

No, I don’t mean a text message or any other form of electronic communication. I mean a real note. Put it inside their wallet, in their purse, on the bathroom mirror or somewhere else where they are sure to see it. There is nothing as sweet or as wonderful as a handwritten love note.

Make Space

Yes, we are all very busy. Too busy, sometimes, to take note that maybe our partner is feeling a little neglected. It is easy to take someone you care about for granted, especially if the relationship is easy-going. But, when we clear a day or even a few hours just for them, just to show them that they are a priority and that they do matter…wow…can you imagine the positive impact you will have on your love? Amazing!

Make Love More Often

Sounds like a no-brainer, but when was the last time you actually made love? Not “had sex” but truly had an intimate experience with one another? I am not even talking about intercourse (although there is nothing wrong with that!) I am talking about two souls connecting on a physical, spiritual and emotional level. Maybe having a deep discussing while in bed together, or kissing and caressing all night long isn’t something you normally do, but why not give it a try? Reconnecting on a deeper level will increase your intimacy.

Be a Better Listener

It is easy to passively listen to your partner speak, but have you tried to be more active? Active listeners are more engaged with their partner and will make their significant other feel as though they are being heard. When one is being heard, there is a respect and trust that forms, which will only deepen your bond.

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The “Right” Path

Religion is one of the two taboo subjects that many of us have been told, often at a young age, not to discuss if we wish to avoid offending anyone (the other is politics), yet sooner or later it often comes up in discussions. Many people feel a need to belong to some form of religion. I am not going to say that it is right or wrong to be part of any religion — indeed, that varies among individuals. Some people seem to be quite happy in their religion, and receive a great deal of comfort from their beliefs. Others seem to have no need for religion at all. Still others join a religion because they perceive it will bring some sort of benefit to them, be it financial, physical, or spiritual.

The main reason that religion is a “hot potato” subject is because some people feel it is their right, or their duty, to impose their religious beliefs on others. They believe that their beliefs are the correct ones, and that those who don’t believe as they do are wrong, or even evil. It’s actually not too dissimilar from the way a member of one political party might see it as their right or duty to convince others that their party is right, and the other party is evil. Those who don’t share those views generally don’t appreciate being told they are wrong!

At the heart of it, most traditional religion is based in part on fear. On a spiritual level, the fear is that you will not measure up to the expectations of deity, or some “higher power”. On a more pragmatic level, the fear is often that if you can’t force others to adopt your beliefs, they might impose their beliefs on you. Wars have been fought because of the underlying fear that we have to kill them before they kill us. It’s only in relatively recent times that a majority of people have started to understand that it’s possible for people of varying beliefs to coexist peacefully, and unfortunately there are still many people that don’t seem to understand this.

People who’ve had near-death experiences (NDE’s) have stated that if they asked about religion during their NDE, they were told that the best religion is the one that brings you closest to God. Of course, a person that felt no need for religion probably wouldn’t ask that question in the first place. But there are no reports of anyone having a NDE and being told that they should belong to a specific religion or denomination!

If you don’t belong to any religion now, my advice to you would be to think long and hard, and do some research on the Internet, before you join. Very often, when people are trying to get you to join their religion, they will seem to love you to death and truly care about you, perhaps even more than anyone else in your life has ever cared for you. The problem is that such “love” is almost always both time-limited and conditional. Once you have joined their religion, they will move on to some other hot prospect that they are trying to get to join, and suddenly you’ll no longer feel like the center of their attention. But worse yet, their love may well be conditional on you believing the things they teach you (no matter how absurd, ridiculous, or even hateful), and behaving the way they want you to. If you should start to question any of their teachings, you become a “problem” to them, and you will find yourself talked to the way a disapproving parent might talk to a stepchild — or maybe even invited to leave.

If you are already involved in a religion, and you feel that you receive comfort and joy from it, and it encourages you to love others and help them when you can, then maybe the only real reason to consider leaving them is if they try to get you to do things that would hurt others. That could be anything from attempting to impose your beliefs on other people, to hating them because they are not part of your group, or don’t meet up with some standard of morality that your religion attempts to uphold. Those are the very things that have been responsible for starting bloody conflicts in past and recent times. Also, please be aware that some religions are all about power and money — specifically, how much of those they can take from their followers for the benefit of the leaders. If the leaders of the religion are constantly telling people to give money to their organization, while they are living the high life (with nice houses, fancy cars, luxurious vacations, and even air-conditioned doghouses for their pets), then they are using deception to steal from their followers. In a few high profile cases they have gotten in trouble and even spent time in prison for this, but that’s the exception rather than the rule — more often than not, the leaders get away with it and are never brought to justice.

However, even if that’s not the case, it might be a good idea to reflect upon why you belong to that religion from time to time. Think about what caused you to join in the first place. Were your parents members, and they forced you to attend, and it just became habit? Did you join because someone convinced you that you might go to some bad place when you die if you didn’t? Or did you perhaps join because you thought you had found a group of people that truly cared about you? Think about the reasons you joined, and then ask yourself, “If I had known then what I know now, would I still have joined?” And also, “Did I have any expectations of what would happen that have not yet been fulfilled?” In short, does your religion truly bring you closer to God, or your “higher power”, or the Universe, or whatever you consider to be the highest and most loving force in all of creation?

If not, perhaps it’s time to find a spiritual path that more completely resonates with you. People on the “wrong” path (which is to say, in the “wrong” religion) often feel quite unhappy and unfulfilled, and often live in fear that somehow they’ll be subjected to some form of eternal punishment (though they may be quite unwilling to admit such thoughts, even to themselves). They may not enjoy participating in their religion’s rituals, or attending the designated place of worship. They may find prayer or meditation boring, or even infuriating, because they don’t ever see any results (but the religion will say it’s their fault). While these things can happen even to people who haven’t strayed from their path, those who are on the “wrong” path often come to a point where they just can’t continue in their present religion. If they then find the right path for them, they often feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off their shoulders, and that all the fear and dread that they experienced previously fades away.

For some people, the “right” path for this lifetime may be to not be part of any organized religion. That doesn’t mean that they cannot engage in some form of spiritual practice, such as meditation or prayer. It only means that they do not feel any need to attend, or receive any benefit from attending, formal meetings or going to a designated place of worship. Everyone is different, and what one person may see as an absolute requirement to be true to their beliefs, another person may see as irrelevant or even nonsense. If you try to convert such a person to your beliefs, you’ll just anger them and frustrate yourself — or worse yet, you’ll convince them to join and then regret doing so, because they will be constantly annoying you whenever the religion doesn’t meet their expectations (after all, you got them into this, so you should be the one to hear their complaints!). Even the religions that encourage proselytizing (that is, attempting to induce someone to convert to one’s faith, according to Merriam-Webster) usually recognize that there are people who just cannot be converted, even if they portray such people in an unfavorable light.

I personally think we’d all get along a lot better if we could all “live and let live” when it comes to our religious beliefs. That doesn’t mean we have to condone hate, or abuse, or attempts to control others, but when those things are not an issue, it’s probably best to let people find their own path. Of course, if someone starts asking questions about your faith or beliefs, then perhaps that means that they are destined to share your path for at least part of their journey through this lifetime, and in that case you can certainly answer their questions and share your beliefs. But if it makes you uncomfortable to talk about what you believe, that may be another indication that you’re not on the right path, or that you’re not being true to yourself and what you really believe. Taking time to reflect on what you believe and why you believe it encourages spiritual growth, and shouldn’t be avoided.

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