Going to church will make you happy …?
How do you FEEL on Sunday morning … before church?
Many of us may view this question with some discomfort because we don’t feel as holy as we think we should. We have not been in prayer since 6am, we are not fired up with Holy Spirit, we are not really looking forward to today’s 25 minute preach however “well prepared”, we may need to employ superhuman feats of organisation and persuasion to get the family there on time, and …… well sometimes we’re just really tired; (yeah me too … and I’m the one preaching!)
If any of that is familiar to you then you may be pleasantly surprised by the conclusions of research that attending church regularly is a HUGE contributor to your wellbeing.“One of the most robust findings of happiness research is that people who believe in God are happier”
There is of course some detail …
Having faith is a huge plus to your wellbeing.
Studies on this topic tend to disagree on the extent of this statement. They do not disagree on the fact of this statement.
Some reports, such as the secular World Happiness Report* commissioned by the UN state that religion enhances life-satisfaction but only in poorer countries in helping people to extract meaning from intense hardship and look forward to better times. However the report later adds that 75% of research does point to a positive effect of people’s faith, especially as a “stress buffer” for life’s most painful events such as bereavement.
Other studies are much more positive.
“Research mostly into Christianity has found a correlation between life-satisfaction-measures and religious certainty” Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, UK
Successive authors point to research that taking your faith seriously and regularly getting involved with other like-minded people provides a major boost to your wellbeing. As well as finding a sense of meaning and purpose to life, it has the side-effect of making us happier, more content. On the other hand, attending church only for social reasons has limited benefit for our wellbeing.
This wellbeing benefit of faith is in addition to the benefits of community and social interaction. Simply being actively engaged in giving to a community is in itself a contributor to wellbeing, but church brings together all three: faith, community works and social interaction.Having faith is a huge plus to your local community
It has been recognised many times that faith communities as well as being good for their members are good for the wider communities in which they live. Nick Spencer* explains how in just one area of the UK 5,000 community projects involving 45,000 faith volunteers were identified, giving their time and talents freely – and it saves the Government money:
“Across the country, we have tens of thousands of fantastic faith-based charities. Every day they’re performing minor miracles in local communities”, David Cameron
He could have added: “…and it doesn’t cost the Government anything!”As well as the effects of faith on wellbeing, let’s summarise this whole series:
So how CAN we be happy?
To end this short series of blogs, let’s rephrase the question.
“How can we be happy” is a limiting question since “happiness” is itself ill-defined. Let’s move beyond the mythical happiness we see in those Christmassy films, or we imagine happened in a distant childhood, and let’s embrace instead the idea of “resilience”.
“Happiness can be a rather flimsy and escapist idea….. In contrast, the idea of resilience carries with it a tough earthiness and the capacity to bounce back from setbacks”, Ann Morisey
Developing resilience is not easy (it won’t happen overnight) but it is straightforward. Here’s the summary:
- Cultivate gratitude as a daily and momentary habit
- Intentionally engage in activities; that have a positive impact on the lives of others
- And actively enjoy and contribute to the church community of which you are part
These are just 3 ways we have discussed in this series –none of them are beyond you. And in developing resilience I believe you will find along the way that you are, indeed, happy.
Chris Goswami is Director of Marketing for a Silicon Valley based company and a Minister In Training in the UK Baptist Church. His personal site is www.7minutes.net.