Spirituality can be defined as: Of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
Part of spirituality may include religion for much of the world (where religion is usually defined more specifically as: Beliefs and practices based on a god or group of gods).
There are many strategies and "formulas" for happiness, and there are many ways to look at life as it relates to being as happy as possible. One "formula" recently reported in the NY Times boiled happiness down to "faith, family, friendships, and work".
While it's probably not that simple or even the same for everyone (and there are likely many other components to a happy life), these 4 concepts (faith, family, friendships, and work) are certainly part of the story.
The first, “faith”, relates to our spiritual or religious beliefs, and there is evidence to indicate that people who have a strong spiritual connection of some kind - which can include a religious practice (formally or informally) - are generally happier than those people who don't have such a connection or practice. There are many reasons for this, and it can actually get quite complicated. Part of it may include the following four ideas:
Positive expectations for the future: Spiritual people tend to see a lot of beauty in the world, which can reduce their focus on the negatives of life (which are certainly prevalent in our world today) and helps make them feel more positive about our world and our future. I know for me, a beautiful sunset is a spiritual experience. It helps make me happy and optimistic about life. When I am sitting on the back of our boat with my wife and daughters at Catalina Island, with great music playing, it's a spiritual experience for me. It helps make me happy and grateful. And, even though I am not a "religious person", I love going to Mariners Church in Irvine because of the great "spiritual" experience it provides, since I am very spiritual.
For people who are religious, where there is also usually some belief in an afterlife, there can be the added feeling that there is more after we die. This can surely help bring more positive expectations for the future since the alternative is not nearly as attractive. I sure hope they are right.
The bottom line is that having positive expectations for the future helps us be happier, and spirituality or religion can help increase those positive feelings in many ways.
Relationships: My former business partner, Tony Robbins, says, "the quality of your life is the quality of your relationships". In other words, great relationships makes for a great life and poor relationships makes for a not-so-great life. Obviously, there are no absolutes here, but I think we can all agree that it is better to have great relationships than to have poor relationships. It is outside the scope of this article to get deeper into this subject, but there is a lot more about relationships at BeHappy101.com.
The concept here, as it relates to spirituality and religion, is that religious practice inherently can foster positive relationships. First, there is a relationship with God (or a god) or some "Creator", superior being, or spiritual entity. Beyond that, for those people who attend religious services regularly, there is a great sense of community where many great relationships can be created. Some of the strongest relationships possible have been started this way.
Comfort during difficult times: Life is tough. We all know that. And, as they say at Mariners Church, it's best not to go through life alone. Part of their message here is that, because life is tough, we all go through difficult times. Some people go through very difficult times, like getting diagnosed with cancer, going through a divorced, dealing with the death of a spouse, child, or parent, and losing a job or dealing with a significant financial crisis.
People can get great comfort through the sense of community and togetherness a religious practice or spiritual connection can provide. Many times, there are people going through the same or similar hardships and there are almost always people who can provide great help and support.
Contribution and "doing the right things": There is generally a sense of contribution associated with religious practice. Contributing to support a place of worship or helping people in need is a common theme. I mentioned Mariners Church in Irvine. They are constantly raising money for needy people and looking for volunteers to help out in underprivileged or difficult situations in many poor countries. And, there is a general "moral philosophy" associated with most religious practices, focusing people on "doing the right thing" in any given situation. This makes people "feel good" about themselves.
Contribution is an essential factor for true happiness. Happy people are contributors and contributors are happy people.
Certainly, it is not essential to have "faith" related to spiritual or religious beliefs to be totally happy. Everyone is different. Many people with strong religious beliefs or who are very spiritual are not totally happy and many people with no religious beliefs or no spirituality are totally happy. It's just that, for many people, the connection, optimism, "comfort", and "moral philosophy" they feel from their spiritual or religious faith and practice help make them happier.
If You Want to Explore This Further...
If you feel a spiritual or religious philosophy is missing from your life, or that you aren't as happy as you could be - and don't really know why - then maybe you should explore this issue further by taking some simple actions:
First, consider your spiritual and religious perspectives and beliefs. Are you spiritual? Are you religious? Are you both? Are you neither? Do you practice a regular religious activity? If so, why? If not, why not? Once you answer these questions, think about how your answers relate to your happiness (or not).
If you are spiritual and/or religious, and this adds to your life in a positive way, you are probably doing the right thing. The question then is, do you need to change anything about your spiritual life?
The most dramatic action to take is for people who don't have a spiritual or religious side at all.
First, open your mind to the possibility that some spiritual or religious thinking could help with happiness (as it does for many people). Remember, this does not mean you have to adopt any particular beliefs or practices and you don't have to start going to a place of worship. If that's for you, great. But if not, that's okay, too. This is more a "psychological" issue than a "religious" or "physical" thing.
If it is something you feel you might want to consider, the biggest action to take is to check out a religious service.
This may not be easy for some people. For example, although I am spiritual, I am not a "religious person" and so I am not inclined to attend religious services. Still, as I mentioned previously, I really like going to Mariners Church in Irvine, though, for many reasons (and I didn't want to go at first). But now, it has become a very spiritual experience for me. They have great music (and I love music), it is usually quite motivational (we all need motivation), and the message is almost always educational (there are many great learning opportunities during the service). And, they have a fantastic children's program and lots of great family activities. For me, the whole experience is very positive - and it makes me happier.
So, give it a try if you need something to help provide greater meaning and happiness to your life. Again, if it's not for you, nothing lost. But, just the sense of community it may bring could enhance your life.
BeHappy! my friends