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Is religion the path to happiness? Some say it might be. Find out how you can incorporate a sense of meaning to your life, whether you believe in a higher power or not.
After my sexual assault a few years ago, I found myself thinking a lot about God. In the process, I've come to realize I'm more spiritual than I am religious.
What do I mean by this? As far as praying to God goes, I prefer looking inside for inner guidance—tapping into my own abundantly powerful inner resources—where some might say God does indeed reside.
Which reminds me of one of my favorite cartoons. Two sock puppets are talking to each other. One sock puppet says to the other, "Sometimes I wonder if there is a hand."
I believe you are your own inner hand. The godly power resides within each of us to create the life we desire, no matter the challenges. I also believe it doesn't matter where your godly guidance comes from, whether it's deep inside you or from high above. What does matter is that you take the time to seek it during times of trouble.
Studies show that people who are actively involved in religion report greater levels of happiness than those who are not religious.
In one study*, 101 undergraduate students between ages 18 and 49 were given surveys. Those scoring high in religious beliefs—attended church regularly, had a strong religious faith, and prayed often—were the ones who scored the highest in happiness.
Personally, I think there are several reasons why the religious students scored higher on the happiness meter, and not all the reasons necessarily have to do with religion. Religious people are simply following the major core practices of happy people. For example, the guaranteed social support that can be found in a church, synagogue or mosque is beneficial and helpful if you're struggling through a trauma or crisis.
Religion also can provide a sense of meaning and purpose. According to psychiatrist Ed Diener, having a belief in something bigger than yourself—a sense of order amid all the chaos—is a vital ingredient to happiness.
You can find this meaning in religious prayer or a spiritual belief system. Or you can develop a personal life philosophy that inspires you to seek lessons and growth. The important thing is to take the time to seek out this meaning and purpose during challenging times.
If God is the secret to happiness, how can He let bad things happen to good people in the first place?