2020-07-01
Shutterstock.com

It’s the one thing we all universally seek – happiness. There are extreme variations in its definition, but ultimately it’s something we all want, and many things, both good and bad, are done in the name of achieving happiness. To that end, it’s often a justification for behavior, both good and bad.

Sadly, happiness for many of us is elusive. It can seem that no matter what we do or try things always fall a bit short of really making us happy. There have been volumes written about how to find real happiness - what to do, how to do it, and where to do it. Most of these involve looking inward and trying to find happiness within you rather than looking outward for other people or things to make you happy. And generally, I agree with these guidelines. True happiness starts with an inner acceptance and satisfaction with yourself. Which then begs the question – how do you achieve that?

One thing that seems truer than most anything else when it comes to finding happiness is that the happiest people are connected in some way with God. This connection can look different for everyone, but when you speak with people who consider themselves “happy,” you almost always find that a relationship with God is part of what they attribute their happiness to.

So, does that mean that religion and God create happiness? Well, yes and no.

God and Creating Readiness For Being Happy

Whether God creates happiness is a complicated question. Some would say that God provides what we are ready to accept so, yes, God creates happiness. That answer isn’t the whole story, however.

What is more the case is that people of faith often find themselves in a better position to recognize and enjoy the things in life that can bring happiness. They are more apt to find the beauty in things, participate in the community, forge relationships with others, and have close family relationships. The ability to do this can be connected to the comfort they derive from a relationship with God, and the feeling of being connected to something larger than themselves.

Faith in God also helps to alleviate the sense of randomness and chaos that the world around us can create. As human beings, we naturally crave order and understanding. Belief and faith in God can provide that on a very basic level. It’s in this sense of underlying order that many find themselves more able to look for and appreciate the things that make them happy. So, in this way, belief in God lays the foundation that creates a readiness to feel happiness.

The Happiness Ingredients That Belief Can Provide

Those who have a relationship with God also show other attributes that can create or enhance happiness. There are several commonalities amongst people of faith that act as building blocks to a happy life, such as:

Lifestyle - People of faith tend to have a more overall healthy lifestyle. They are often more social, have a strong sense of right and wrong, and have active family lives. They are less likely to behave in overly decadent ways, be purposely deceitful, or openly malicious. Of course, there are variations to all these things, and everyone is different. And it’s important to note that lifestyle doesn’t in and of itself create happiness. What certain lifestyles can do, however, is remove some of the stressors that often lead to unhappiness.

Health - While it’s not an absolute, people who feel connected to God are more likely to give up (or never develop) some of the most unhealthy habits. It’s less common for those of faith to smoke, develop alcohol addiction, or drug addiction. This doesn’t mean, however, that people of faith are always physically healthier overall though. Their incidence of obesity, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise aren’t wildly different from those who are indifferent to God and faith. But what does often differ is the psychological health and stability of those who have a relationship with God. The understanding that there is something larger than yourself at work and comfort in a greater plan (even if you don’t clearly know what it is) can make a profound difference in mental health. And any positives in the healthy column can lead to greater happiness.

Coping with stress - One of the largest things that belief can do to improve happiness is to provide a framework and support system for coping with stress. The comfort that a connection to God can provide can help people more effectively put the stress and problems in their lives into perspective. And as mentioned earlier, many who find comfort in God also find a closer connection to family and the community. This helps to create a stronger support system and relief when life gets difficult. Stress and worry are some of the biggest contributors to unhappiness, so anything that lessens these will allow for more deeply and regularly experiencing happiness.

Religion and Happiness

You may notice that up until this point, I reference a connection to God and not to religion. I did this deliberately. While accepting God may lead to greater happiness, connection to organized religion has many other caveats to consider.

Participation in organized religion and believing in God doesn’t always go hand-in-hand for everyone. For some, religion is crucial and does play heavily into their happiness, while for others, it doesn’t. Either way, celebrating God and developing a positive relationship with your own faith belief, whether it’s within the structure of an organized religion or on your own through religious teachings, is the primary contributor to a happy, comfortable, and confident life.

So, does God provide happiness? Again, it’s yes and no. Yes, a relationship with God tends to place people in a better psychological position to accept and find happiness, and no, God doesn’t simply grant happiness to a person. Overall, being happy comes from within, as does love, faith, and respect for God. When you are able to accept that and stop relying upon things outside of yourself to provide happiness for you, you are far more likely to be able to find the happiness that lies within yourself.



more from beliefnet and our partners