Happiness Habit #7: Spiritual Engagement, Purpose, and Meaning
Well, here we go. I started this Happiness Habits series on October 29, 2018 (last year!) and it has taken me THIS long to finish them up! I was excited to have a cohesive topic to write about in my entrance to this blogging world. And then once I was committed to it, my desire and interest in writing about them waned. I’ve always been that type of person – I like the idea of commitment, I will commit, but then I automatically want to rebel against it once I’m in it. Sure, I’ll sign up for a summer beach volleyball league on the shores of Lake Michigan. Sounds fun! Week #3…. “why did I do this again?” But you better believe I showed up and finished out the season. At least I am fully aware of this habit when I do commit to things!
Alas, I will buckle down, finish this habit #7 and will be free to post on other topics. I am sure happiness will be revisited over and over as this idea of securing “happiness” is something most of us are pursuing.
Spiritual engagement, Purpose, and Meaning
The big idea behind all three of these words is to get outside of ourselves, see ourselves in the world at large, be connected to something on a grander scale, and separate ourselves from our Ego. The Ego is the enemy and causes many issues including the need for control, being right or better than, and having a certain image. When we tend to be outward focused rather than inward focused, it reduces suffering and loneliness.
Yale scientists have identified a possible neurobiological home for the spiritual experience — the sense of connection to something greater than oneself. Reader, there is a home in our brain for spiritual experiences. It is an important component to our overall sense of wellbeing and we need to nourish it. From the beginning of time, our ancient ancestors have pondered the meaning of life, created origin stories, and looked to the heavens and earth for the “why” behind our existence. Being connected to a larger community, feeling as though we have a role in said community, and understanding the purpose to our life helps us feel more secure and less anxious. (This is known as ontological security for my fellow nerds out there. It is a cognitive need that humans have to feel secure and stable in their identity. Knowing who we are and what we are. It is a profound feeling of stability and meaning that comes from believing that the world is predictable and ordered and you know your place in it. Spirituality, connectedness, and being part of something bigger than yourself help with providing this security.)
To clarify, spirituality and religion are different. Spirituality might just be being at peace and harmony with nature and humanity. Some find spirituality in their loved ones, music, or art. Others find it in their values and principles. And others find it in traditional religious practices and some combine both religion and spiritual practices. Some people relate spirituality to the deepest part of their beliefs. The part that allows them to draw meaning of their lives and the world we live in, helping them know they have a purpose to fulfill.
Brené Brown sums it up:
There are many ways one can practice this habit.
· Practice Gratitude. Spend five minutes at the end of the day writing down what you are grateful for. This amplifies the positive things, people, and events in your life, and reminds you that you are blessed.
· Join a community of people who support you in your endeavors. This can be a church, a parent’s group, a yoga studio, a (insert hobby here) club, a spiritual group, etc.
· Meditate daily or pray daily. Both of these acts calm the body, reduces stress and anxiety, and also supports positive thinking.
· Engage with people. Talk to strangers. Making connections with others reminds you that you aren’t alone and that we all have a combination of suffering and joy in our life.
· Volunteer and make a difference in someone else’s life.
· Spend time in nature. Look around in awe at the beauty and designs in nature and ponder how it all exists, how it all interacts with each other, and how we really are connected to and need nature to survive (e.g., photosynthesis!)
· Forgive and be thankful.
· Disconnect from electronics.
· Practice self-compassion.
· Educate yourself – You certainly want to learn more about whatever particular spiritual method you’re focusing on, whether it’s a religion or a type of meditation. However, it’s also important to educate yourself about other methods of spirituality. By confronting ideas you might not believe in, you’ll deepen your understanding of your own spirituality – plus, you’ll be able to keep an open mind and appreciate the diversity of thought understand.
Tal Ben-Shahar, one of the premiere teachers of positive psychology and the good life, defines happiness as “the overall experience of pleasure and meaning.” A happy person isn’t so because they only experience positive emotions. Happy people generally experience pleasurable emotions, but also identify their lives as meaningful—that is, they feel they contribute in some way to their community and that they have an effect on the world around them. Since spirituality is so deeply rooted in providing meaning, it is a direct access point for greater happiness.
In conclusion to this happiness habit series and in connection with the New Year, I encourage you to review each of these habits and see which domains you can focus on in 2019 to increase your overall sense of wellbeing. Courtney’s blog on using intentions rather than resolutions for growth can be a guide for how to set up goals to work on the happiness domains.
Here’s to 2019 and working towards well-being, balance, and a sense of inner-peace and contentment in the midst of navigating all of life’s challenges.
Want to work on this journey yourself? Reach out and I’d be honored to walk this path with you!