A professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, and his colleagues Ben Coleman and Judi Wallace have conducted a study which suggests that spirituality is key to children’s happiness.(1) Over the past few years, scientists have been able to measure the effect of positive emotions and feelings of joy within our biology, so it is key to find out what best produces these feelings within us.
Just to be clear, they define spirituality as internal characteristics; an inner belief system that a person relies on for strength and comfort. Understanding happiness has been subjected to large amounts of research for a number of years. This particular one suggests that the processes that influence happiness are not guided by external factors, but by internal characteristics and qualities.
320 children aged 8-12 were assessed to examine the relationship between spirituality and happiness, from both public and private schools. You can read the full abstract and study for methods used here. The study concluded that children’s spirituality, not their religious practices (e.g., attending church, praying, and meditating), was strongly linked to their happiness. The results parallel studies of adult happiness and suggest strategies to enhance happiness in children.
The authors found that the children who said they were more spiritual were happier. In particular, the personal (i.e. meaning and value in one’s own life) and communal (i.e. quality and depth of inter-personal relationships) aspects of spirituality were strong predictors of children’s happiness. Spirituality explained up to 27 percent of the differences in happiness levels among children.
Researchers have identified many ways in which spirituality enhances and promotes subjective well-being. One of these ways of enhancing well-being is to increase personal meaning in one’s life. Spirituality may produce a sense of meaning that is worth living or dying for.
If spirituality enhances happiness by increasing personal meaning, this may suggest strategies to enhance happiness. For example, strategies aimed at enhancing personal meaning in children’s lives may promote happiness. Future studies could have children engage in activities that might promote personal meaning. For example, children might volunteer to help others or record their contributions to the community in a journal. Then changes in happiness and personal meaning before and after these activities could be compared. If personal meaning is critical to happiness, one might see that these activities particularly enhances happiness for those children who showed increases in personal meaning. (1)Again, spirituality is not just another ‘thing’ to latch on to, in the context of this article it refers to an inner belief system that a person relies on for strength and comfort.
If we look at the planet today, from the day we are born we are bombarded with marketing, advertising, television and more; our wants and desires are literally programmed into us. We constantly seek external factors for self satisfaction and happiness (i.e., money), but after we acquire these external characteristics we instantly move on to something else outside of us in order to feel happy or fulfilled. This is a result of the mass conditioning we are exposed to throughout our lives. Have you ever wondered why a majority of people on the planet want and desire the same thing? They want money, cars, clothes and a big house. What happens when nobody wants these things anymore? What happens when nobody truly has a desire to acquire materialistic gains? What happens to an individual when they come to the understanding that nothing external can bring us joy?
It’s a process of great transformation, awakening and realization. It’s a path towards true fulfillment. It forces one to look within themselves for a feeling they could once only receive temporarily, from ‘things’ outside of themselves. It also forces one to create a new experience, one that can provide a better experience, one that resonates more with our internal being.
As we grow up, we pay no attention to our inner voice, neglecting it and pushing it to the side. We seem to always be following instructions. This internal voice is the key to joy, it’s your intuition, your belief systems, your heart. Many of us haven’t even had the time to develop or listen to it, many of us don’t even know how because we are told what to believe, how to live our lives and what makes us happy. We are not given the opportunity to examine and explore these things on our own, through our own inner guidance.
Constantly looking for happiness and fulfillment outside of ourselves, or having a certain external criteria for achieving a state of happiness keeps us in a cycle of depression and sadness because these things can never provide us with real feelings of fulfillment and joy. We are always feeling that something is lacking, and that we need to acquire something to make it better. Sure, they may provide something temporary, but in order to vibe in the energetic frequency of joy more often you will have to find it within yourself, something many of us continue to do, and something that is not easy.
I do not believe that one needs to be, or even can be in a constant joyful state. There is also a neutral state of peace which can be perceived as a state of sadness by some. This is our natural state, an observer state.
Because we’ve been programmed and conditioned to seek fulfillment outside of ourselves for most of our lives, this process is extremely difficult and hard. A while ago now, I realized that nothing external on the planet could really make me ‘happy,’ that I would have to find joy in just being, existing, and having the opportunity to experience this life on this planet at this time. When nothing truly outside of yourself can provide you with joy, you will be hurled towards self discovery, but only when truly nothing outside of yourself does the trick anymore. It can be a dark place at first, but if you find yourself going through this process remember that nothing is wrong with you, and you are on the correct path. It’s perfectly normal to not be able to find joy from anything in the external world, it doesn’t mean you are depressed or not ‘normal.’ Pretty soon you will learn to find joy from the simple gift of being able to experience life. It just means that you have outgrown this experience, and you seek something new, something different, and something that fulfills your soul as opposed to your mind.
I don’t want to make it seem like completely nothing outside of myself provides me with joy. There is love, relationships with other individuals, friends, beautiful planet Earth, sports and more. But these are all feelings that come from within, and cannot be produced by materialistic gains. These are empirical experiences producing these feelings, the joy that comes from the simplicity of EXPERIENCING life, rather than acquiring. These are indeed spiritual experiences.
Next time you are feeling down, ask yourself: is this feeling coming from a place where you feel you are lacking something? Because the truth is, all you need is within you, and it has been there all along.
Arjun Walia writes for Collective-Evolution, where this article first appeared.