Spiritual Paths to Happiness?

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There is a “rule” in life that says you should not talk about politics or religion. These topics are just too controversial and emotional. Well, I’m going to break that rule here today by partly talking about religion (but mainly about the more general topic of spirituality).

I do not consider myself a “religious person”, and if you have strong religious opinions and beliefs, please take this post as it was intended – and that is to be an unbiased, genuine discussion that can lead you to greater happiness – whatever your beliefs. Or, you can just totally disregard this post if you prefer (although, as it relates to happiness, it is mostly positive toward religion).

Spirituality: the belief in an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the "deepest values and meanings by which people live." Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop an individual's inner life. Spiritual experiences can include being connected to a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; joining with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with the divine realm. Spirituality is often experienced as a source of inspiration or orientation in life. It can encompass belief in immaterial realities or experiences of the immanent or transcendent nature of the world.

Spirituality means different things to different people. For some, it means a religious practice. For others it means searching inwardly toward a true purpose, perhaps through meditation. For still others, it means just appreciating the awesome wonder of the world around us.

Whatever spirituality means for you, it has been shown that people who experience or practice some kind of “spiritual life” are happier and more fulfilled in life than those who don’t. Obviously, that is not 100%. Nothing is. But in general, this appears to be the case.

There is quite a bit of research suggesting that “religious people” are happier and less stressed than non-religious people. There are a number of mechanisms through which religion – or spirituality in general - may make a person happier, including social contact and support that can result from religious pursuits, the mental activity that can come with optimism and volunteering, learned coping strategies that can enhance one's ability to deal with stress, and psychological factors such as having a "reason for being." It may also be that religious people engage in behaviors related to better health. In addition, in a large worldwide study, it was found that people living under the most difficult circumstances found religion to make people happier than non-religious people.

Now, I am not promoting religion, or even spirituality. That’s a personal issue that is totally up to each of us to either pursue or not.

The point here is that, if you want to be as happy as possible, you need to define happiness for yourself – and if that definition includes a spiritual or religious component, it should be included in your life in some way. Also, if you are unhappy or in some way unfulfilled in your life – even if you haven’t defined happiness fully for yourself, and even if you feel religion is not part of that definition – you may want to consider some kind of spiritual or religious journey. Who knows? Research shows it could have an effect.

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BeHappy! my friends


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