Are religious people happier people?


How Did Religion Come Into The World?

Every religion or even non-religion is based on a belief system. These beliefs were passed down over time and made stronger and stronger with each new generation.
All beliefs stem back to an interpretation of the world. Some believe that there has to be a higher power responsible for what is around us, while others believe that everything simply has a will of its own, in other words, everything happens by intention.

The link below is a TED Talk illustrating: 1) how the first belief systems were introduced into the world and 2) how this lead to different belief systems:

Different Religions: Past And Present

In today’s time there are more than a few religions and even more denominations found within each religion.

The following are tables illustrating the different religion and the information about each. Scroll in the box below to see more.

Why Is Religion Diminishing?

Magee, B. (n.d) . The state of religion: declining belief in God worldwide.

While religion has been present for many centuries, it is loosing its support that it once had. Brian Magee mentions a number of studies, which show a drastic decrease in religious activities. These studies range from people loosing interest in Holy Scriptures to increase atheist populations worldwide. Magee states that the reasons behind these changes in the populations have to do with many worldwide issues in today’s time. These factors push people away from what they believe in because in short, these people have lost their faith in believing in a higher power. He also goes further to say that those who remain steadfast in their beliefs are perhaps not exposed to their negative experiences more frequently and thus are not quick to lose their faith and belief, but this will be their ultimate outcome.

Altemeyer, B. (2004). The decline of organized religion in western civilization. International Journal for the Psychology of Relgion. 14(2):77-89

In another source, Bob Altermeyer, further shows the decline in religion activities over time. He includes various statistics and demographics in his research to illustrate the rapid decrease in religion in North America. When investigating religious view of students, he finds that only students suggest that their resistance to religions is due to it never being enforced when they were grown up, thus it became normal to not go to church. Altermeyer finds this stimulating and decides to then find reason with the parents of students. He comes to the conclusion that people draw back from religion because of the level of hypocrisy found in religious institutions. While different people find hypocrisy with many different aspects that pertain to them individually, it is clear that people are not loosing faith with God ( or their higher entity) but merely with mankind.

While Magee states that people who are non-religious left because of hypocrisy found within their religious community, Time Magazine puts forward that those who remain steadfast in their religion are generally happier than those who don’t.
It illustrates that people don’t necessarily go to church just to pray or hear a sermon, but love the community within.
Some statistics they found:

• 28% of people who attend religious services are more likely to have a positive social support than people who don’t practice religion.
• Women who attend services at least once a week are more likely to score above average on a survey of optimism and are also 22% less likely to become depressed.
• 33% of those who attend religious services regularly report to have close friends at church and are extremely satisfied with their lives, while only 19% of those who went to church but had no close connections to the congregation reported the same satisfaction.

Above it was discussed that although many religions and denominations within have found a drop in attendance, does this mean that these people do not do good anymore? No it does not. The National Study of Youth & Religion show that even non-religious people still help out in the community and are willing to lend an extra hand.
Here are some statistics they came across

• 17% of 12th graders who attend religious services weekly volunteer their time weekly as well.
• 7% of those who never attend church volunteer with the same frequency


Based on this above information, it is clear that religion was created to give the people on Earth something to believe in. These beliefs were passed down through generations and were strengthen into the different major religions we have in today’s time. While some generations slowly withdrew themselves from religious activities where they found problems or hypocrisy, other remained steadfast and firm. Today we experience the ripple effects of these events. It still remains clear that those who have something to believe in and strive for are generally happier than those who don’t because they find themselves in a community of others who believe as they do.
“Religion’s secret to happiness: It’s friends, not faith”


-Erin O'Connor

Belief Systems And Religion

Beliefs in Religion vs. Beliefs in Spirituality

Religion can be defined as “belief in God or gods to be worshipped, usually expressed in conduct and ritual” or “any specific system of belief, worship, etc., often involving a code of ethics.” Spirituality can be defined as “the quality or fact of being spiritual, non-physical” or “predominantly spiritual character as shown in thought, life, etc.; spiritual tendency or tone.” To put it briefly, religion is a set of beliefs and rituals that claim to get a person in a right relationship with God, and spirituality is a focus on spiritual things and the spiritual world instead of physical/earthly things.

What are the Similarities and Differences?

What religion and spirituality have in common is that they both can be false methods of having a relationship with God. Religion tends to substitute the heartless observance of rituals for a genuine relationship with God. Spirituality tends to substitute connection with the spirit world for a genuine relationship with God. Both can be, and often are, false paths to God. At the same time, religion can be valuable in the sense that it points to the fact that there is a God and that we are somehow accountable to Him. The only true value of religion is its ability to point out that we have fallen short and are in need of a Savior. Spirituality can be valuable in that it points out that the physical world is not all there is. Human beings are not only material, but also possess a soul-spirit. There is a spiritual world around us of which we should be aware. The true value of spirituality is that it points to the fact that there is something and someone beyond this physical world to which we need to connect.

Does religion makes you happier*

-A belief in God increases one’s feeling that life is meaningful.
-A large part of it is due to the meaning, purpose and value which believing in God gives you, whereas not believing in God can leave you without those things."
-It’s less about what you believe than the fact that you have a community, a church, a synagogue, a Bible Study group.
-It’s the social support network that is fulfilling. You could well be working in a soup kitchen, joining a book club, or belonging to a neighborhood watch.
It’s the sense that we are looking after one another that matters.
- Those who are who are believers have a certain mindset: the power of prayer, the belief in an afterlife, the sense that someone is looking after you, that there is a higher power, that things happen for a reason. This mindset, helps people make sense of tragedy, struggles, and loss. One can believe, “I’ll see this person later,” or “God only gives you what you can handle‚” or “there is a silver lining in the suffering.”


Two important factors of having a belief system aids in someone's happiness

A) the sense of a community that's built amongst people of the same belief system.
-This promotes a social connection
-this is helpful for other members

B)The second is the affirmation that one never feels alone in the world
-It gives hope that there is a loving and caring god whom you can go to for guidance.
-The idea that life does not end and after death brings comfort.
-This can help create personal happines, successful life and individual growth.
-This notion of a higher power, helps to take the worries out of making certain decision when you know that a powerful force is taking care of you.

Here is video on how having a belief system contibutes to personal happiness:

Quinn, Sally. ( January 24). Religion is a sure route to true happiness. The Huff Post.
Retrieved from:

Houghton, Kristen. ( 2010, april 8). Does religion make you happier?. The Huff Post.
Retrieved from:

Houdmann, S. (2007). What is the difference between religion and spirituality. Retrieved from

Myers, D. Modaressy-Tehrani, C. (2014, 02, 04). Religious Beliefs Make People Happier. Huffington Post. [Video]. Retrieved from


Religion And Mental Health


Many use religion for comfort and stability in their lives. The relationship between religion and mental health is a potentially revolutionizing topic. Experiments include whether religious values are beneficial to one’s well-being. The first set of research seeks to correlate mental health conditions in relation to religious or atheist values. The second experiment analyzes the relationship between religious affiliation and suicide attempts. The final experiment investigates the association between religious affiliation and depression.

#1 Does Religion Lead to Poor Mental Health or Vice Versa?

Definition: Poor Mental Health equates to ‘unhappiness.’

This experiment compares major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and alcohol use disorder versus religious values among the Korean population. Results display that placing a large importance on religious values is correlated with a higher depression rate. The dilemma is does religion lead to poor mental health or vice versa? The research concludes that those struggling with poor mental health are more likely to seek religious guidance and place a high importance on religion to help manage their psychological issues. However these people are more vulnerable to relapse. Strong religious values is correlated with low alcohol disorder statistics. This is because some religions may be against excessive alcohol use. For instance, atheists have the highest level of alcohol use disorder. However the anxiety level of atheists are lower than those with religious values. It is hypothesized that abstaining from sin may cause higher levels of anxiety as opposed to atheists who do not believe in sin.

Although the experiment provides valuable insight the accuracy of the data can be further improved. Firstly, the data provides disproportionate information between sexes. More females are religious than males, affecting the data because the makeup between the sexes differ. Statistics show that more females struggle with poor mental health than males. (Hanser, 2012) This is a result of socialization and cognitive differences between genders. (Welsh & Siegel, 2011) Secondly, only Koreans and mostly Christians were measured, an unrepresentative population and religion. It is also unclear how the extent of one’s religious values should be measured. Worship frequency was excluded from the experiment which would have provided further insight of the extent in which one is religious. Finally, confounding variables such as family experiences, cultural and environmental factors were not researched and would be a valuable contribution to understanding mental health. These factors would certainly have an impact on the results of the experiment. (Breel, 2013)

Park, J., Hong, J. P., Park, S., & Cho, M. (2012, January 11). The relationship between religion and mental disorders in a korean population. Retrieved from

Other Sources:
1. Hanser, R. (2012). Introduction to corrections. (Illustrated ed., p. 284). SAGE.
2. Welsh, B., & Siegel, L. (2011). Juvenile delinquency: Theory, practice, and law. (11th ed., pp. 242-243). Cengage Learning.
3. Breel, K. (Performer) (2013, May). Confessions of a depressed comic. TED. [Video podcast]. Retrieved from

#2. Religious Affiliation vs. Suicide Attempts

Definition: One who attempts suicide is not ‘happy.’

One who feels the need to take their own life and attempts suicide is a clear indication of one who is not ‘happy.’ This experiment investigates the relationship between suicide attempts and religious affiliation among depressed individuals. Results display a correlation between depressed atheism and suicide attempts. The experiment determines that depressed atheists are more likely to attempt suicide than those with religious affiliation. Depressed atheists tend to exhibit traits that increase their likelihood of suicide attempt. They tend to be more impulsive and aggressive as well as more likely to exhibit past substance disorders than those affiliated with religion. The data also shows that atheists have fewer reasons to live as they tend to be younger, have no spouse nor children and engage in less contact with their family. Family ties are relevant for one’s physical and emotional well-being. It is relevant for one who suffers from depression to have a reliable support system that encourages openness of their struggles. (Breel, 2013) Religious people are more likely to get married and have a family, increasing their chances of having a better support system. (Rossano, 2010) Results are also influenced by religion’s impact on one’s morals of suicide as many religions place beliefs against self-harm. As a result religious countries have lower suicide rates than secular countries. For example Islamic countries have a low rate of suicide because self-harm is forbidden.

Although the experiment delivers relevant points, to further strengthen the accuracy of the data the experiment can include whether depressed individuals have undergone treatment for their condition and the methods of those treatments. Ways to treat depression include counselling therapy, medication, light therapy and/or exercise. (Williams, Teasdale, Segal & Kabat-Zinn, 2012) Furthermore the quality of mental health care varies by location. (Patel, 2012) To ensure accurate data, the experiment examines groups who exhibit the same levels of depression. However it is objective how the level of one’s depression is measured. The practice of psychology will be improved as an understanding of the relationship between religious affiliation and mental health are applied to research and practice.

Click thumbnails to enlarge charts

Kanita, D. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Other Sources:
1. Rossano, M. (2010). Supernatural selection: How religion evolved. (pp.103-105). Oxford University Press.
2. Williams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, Z., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2012). The mindful way through depression: Freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness. Guilford Press.
3. Breel, K. (Performer) (2013, May). Confessions of a depressed comic. TED. [Video podcast]. Retrieved from
4. Patel, V. (Performer) (2012, June). Mental health for all by involving all. TED. [Video podcast]. Retrieved from

#3 Are Religious Believers More Depressed?

Definition: One who is depressed is not ‘happy.’

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s article, “Religious believers more depressed than atheists” studies the relationship between religion and depression. Their research finds that those with a “spiritual understanding of life” are more prone to depression than atheists. The research concludes, “these results do not support the notion that religious and spiritual life views enhance psychological well-being. There was no evidence of religion acting as a buffer to prevent depression after a serious life event."
Although the experiment provides valuable insight there are a couple of ways in which the accuracy of its research can be improved. The extent to of which one is affiliated in religion (for example daily prayer) was not measured. Also hereditary depression was not considered. One born with, or more prone to depression would influence the results. (Mallet, 2008) The experiment concludes that religious believers are more prone to depression than atheists, however this may be explained by the hypothesis developed in “The Relationships between Religion and Mental Disorders in a Korean Population.” (Park, Hong, Park & Cho, 2012) Religion does not cause depression, depressed individuals seek religion and are in a vulnerable position for relapse. (Park, Hong, Park & Cho, 2012)

Dunning , J. (2013, September 20). Religious believers more depressed than atheists: study. Retrieved from

Other sources:
1. Mallet, S. (2008). Depression a misunderstood disease. Moses Akinmuyiwa.
2. Park, J., Hong, J. P., Park, S., & Cho, M. (n.d.). Retrieved from


In conclusion religion is not a catalyst for poor mental health. Although religious believers are more depressed than atheists, this can be explained by the hypothesis developed in “The Relationships between Religion and Mental Disorders in a Korean Population.” (Park, Hong, Park & Cho, 2012) In search for guidance, depressed persons become affiliated with religion and are in a vulnerable position for relapse. However depressed atheism is correlated with a higher rate of suicide attempts. Although this is true, religion is not a cause of poor mental health. Understanding the relationship between religious affiliation and mental health will enhance the practice of psychology.



1. Park, J., Hong, J. P., Park, S., & Cho, M. (n.d.). Retrieved from

2. Kanita, D. (n.d.). Retrieved from

3. Religious believers more depressed than atheists: study - Your Community. (n.d.). Retrieved from

4. Rossano, M. (2010). Supernatural selection: How religion evolved. (pp.103-105). Oxford University Press.

5. Williams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, Z., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2012). The mindful way through depression: Freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness. Guilford Press.

6.Welsh, B., & Siegel, L. (2011). Juvenile delinquency: Theory, practice, and law. (11th ed., pp. 242-243). Cengage Learning.

7. Hanser, R. (2012). Introduction to corrections. (Illustrated ed., p. 284). SAGE.

8. Mallet, S. (2008). Depression a misunderstood disease. Moses Akinmuyiwa.

9. Breel, K. (Performer) (2013, May). Confessions of a depressed comic. TED. [Video podcast]. Retrieved from

10. Patel, V. (Performer) (2012, June). Mental health for all by involving all. TED. [Video podcast]. Retrieved from

Religion And Physical Health


This part of research will link the aspects of religion and health to happiness. To do this health needs to be defined and so does happiness and religion so we have a direction in which to go in. Once we have those definitions we now have a base for the research to grow upon.
One thing important to note when focusing on the topic of religion, it is a very broad topic as there are many religions. The image just to the right gives a visual to some of the religions around the world. Some that are similar and some that are very different from each other. Therefore, within the context of my research when addressing some points it will only be related to those religions that believe or practice what I am addressing.


1#WHO definition of Health. (1948, April 7).World Health Organization. Retrieved April 7, 2014, from

According to WHO (1948), “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition is important for the section of Religion and health. In order to see how health can be related to religion a very good definition is needed. This will help with the other articles when addressing what aspects of religion affect health. This source is very reliable, as it deals with matters of health for the world.

Happiness and Physical Health

2# Cornelisse-Vermaat, J. R., Antonides, G., Ophem, J. A., & Brink, H. M. (2006). Body Mass Index, Perceived Health, And Happiness: Their Determinants And Structural Relationships. Social Indicators Research, 79(1), 143-158.

This articles significance is linking health to happiness. With this link when religious people are found to be more healthy individuals it can be related to their well being which is happiness. Body Mass Index is important to health there are different brackets that an individual can fall within such as underweight, normal weight and underweight. Research within this article linked being overweight or obese to decreasing levels of both physical and emotional well-being. Obesity occurs due to high calorie intake and lack of physical activity. There are many health issues caused due to obesity that is mentioned in
the article. Being in good or health has the opposite effect on you well- being it brings it up. Health is a influencer of your happiness among other things.

3# Røysamb, E., Neale, M., Harris, J., Tambs, K., & Reichborn-Kjennerud, T. (2003). Happiness and Health: Environmental and Genetic Contributions to the Relationship Between Subjective Well-Being, Perceived Health, and Somatic Illness Espen Røysamb Norwegian Institute. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(6), 1136–1146.

This articles goal is to answer the question are healthy people happier? Thus to conclude it comes to the finding that social well-being is related to perceived health more specifically in young adults within this article. Musculoskeletal pain was researched and emotion, distress, anxiety where triggered due to this pain (Røysamb et al. 2003). Basically there is a strong correlation between pain and unhappiness. Even individuals with asthma, there body’s immune system releases cytokines that has been linked with symptoms very similar to depression (Røysamb et al. 2003). This is why levels of well-being are decreased in certain health problems. Therefore, if an individual does not have health problems they are happier than those with health problems. The relevance of this article to the research question is to find the correlation between health and happiness. To then link it to the finding that Religious involvement increases your health thus promoting well-being or happiness.

Relationship between Religion and Physical Health

4 # Ellison, C., & Levin, J. (1998). The religion- health connection: Evidence, theory, and future directions. Health Education & Behavior, 25(6), 700-720.
This article highlights research being done that links well-being which includes happiness to religious involvement (church attendance). Some religious beliefs require you to act in a certain manner. For example in some religions you are not allowed to drink or smoke. In these specific religions there is significantly lower out comes of diseases such as cancer. This can have an overall impact on your physical health which would promote life. If you are not battling with diseases and are healthy you will generally be in a happier state. The significance of this article in your research will be to point out the specific connections such as your frequency of prayer and its association to positive indicators of well-being.

5#Vah Ness, P. (2003). Epidemiology and the study of religion. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, 33, 147-159.

This article uses its findings of religious promotion or hindrance to health in order to provide healthcare workers with this information so they can use it as disease prevention. Researchers that are involved with such studies are usually epidemiologists, sociologists and psychologists.

6#Basu-Zharku, I. O. (2011). "The Influence of Religion on Health." Student Pulse, 3(01). Retrieved from

A section of this article points out the relationships between health and religion. However, many of these studies where focused on Judeo-Christian practises. Basu-Zharku (2011) states, “The most pervasive associations are between religious practices and lower blood pressure, better lipid profiles, better immune function, and lower all-cause mortality”. Those are some of the better physical health outcomes that have been found in people who partake in religious practises thus promoting their well -being. The relevance of this study to the research is that you are now able to look at specific health outcomes and what aspects of religion relate to it.

Claims About Religious Involvement and Health Outcomes

7# Sloan, R. P., & Bagiella, E. (2002). Claims about religious involvement and health outcomes. Annals of Behavioral Medicine,24(1), 14-21.
This article gives insight to some of the previous studies done on the effects of religious practices and health. Studies such as denominational difference, only remotely about religion, medical decision making, and religious activity as the dependent variable where all mentioned within the article. However Sloan and Bagiella (2002) used these studies to show how they were unsuccessful at showing claim of religious practices and health benefits. They went through 266 articles who claimed, and found that only 17 percent of the claims where actually correct. The rest suffered from articles that don’t only addresses religion and health but other matters as well. While they search to find the relations between religion and health it violates certain standards of methodology. If they want the studies to be appropriate religion and health should be the primary focus. Hence, the significance of using this article is to see all the areas of potential error that may be used to prove the claims in other articles.


Basu-Zharku, I. O. (2011). "The Influence of Religion on Health." Student Pulse, 3(01). Retrieved from

Cornelisse-Vermaat, J. R., Antonides, G., Ophem, J. A., & Brink, H. M. (2006). Body Mass Index, Perceived Health, And Happiness: Their Determinants And Structural Relationships. Social Indicators Research, 79(1), 143-158.

Ellison, C., & Levin, J. (1998). The religion- health connection: Evidence, theory, and future directions. Health Education & Behavior, 25(6), 700-720.

Røysamb, E., Neale, M., Harris, J., Tambs, K., & Reichborn-Kjennerud, T. (2003). Happiness and Health: Environmental and Genetic Contributions to the Relationship Between Subjective Well-Being, Perceived Health, and Somatic Illness Espen Røysamb Norwegian Institute. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(6), 1136–1146.

Sloan, R. P., & Bagiella, E. (2002). Claims about religious involvement and health outcomes. Annals of Behavioral Medicine,24(1), 14-21.

#Vah Ness, P. (2003). Epidemiology and the study of religion. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, 33, 147-159.

WHO definition of Health. (1948, April 7).World Health Organization. Retrieved April 7, 2014, from



In whole, what is it that makes spirituality compatible with religion and one's happiness? The following article will explore various perspectives regarding the definition of spirituality and what it means to be spiritual. Additionally, this article will investigate several studies and personal experiences of three subjects total and their overall philosophy, in which, spirituality became their solution through either disaster, crisis and in events of distress. In other words, this article will eventually explore spirituality as a coping mechanism and how it corresponds to an individual's happiness and overall well-being.

What is Spirituality?
Through the findings in spirituality-happiness research, there is no fixed definition of spirituality. There is however, a common agreement to what it means to be spiritual. Nelson (2009, pp. 8) goes back in history and argues that spirituality was formed to “contrast church life with 'worldly' or materialistic ways of being.” He says it is a “broad term encompassing multiple domains of meaning that may differ among various cultural, national and religious groups.” Similarly, Kashdan & Nezlek (2012, pp. 1523)'s definition explains the reflecting of the “subjective experience of searching for and nourishing relationships with divine beings, whether referring to God, other divine beings or living creatures.” In other words, it is the “personal side of our relationship to the transcendent or sacred” Nelson (2009, pp. 8). PBS (2009) also puts forth an essence to spirituality as it is the “appreciation of sacred to search for meaning beyond ourselves and our reason,” giving us a sense of importance in our lives through “transcendence,” in which, we also receive “purpose, mission of life, meaning in ordinary or traumatic events” and lastly, “satisfaction for our need for explanation.”

All in all, it is puzzling yet likely that spirituality is difficult to fix a definition to; solely because spirituality is not something an individual is, but rather, is something an individual does, consisting of three components de (2004, pp. 36) regards as “practice, belief, experiment," leading to an “enhanced state of being” in whole, linking to Berrett, et al. (2007)'s notion of spirituality when studying patients with eating disorders. Berrett, et al. (2007, pp. 377) puts emphasis on experiences of “feeling compassion” as well as “loving, accepting love, being able to feel hope, receiving inspiration, feeling enlightened, being honest and congruent,” as well as “feeling gratitude.”

On the web source Positive Psychology, Sansom (2012) also gives a take at defining spirituality as “a construct that overlaps but is not equivalent to religiosity.” There is certainly contrast between religion and spirituality. Religion as explained by spiritual teacher, Osho (1976), turns individuals into collectives where they lose their individuality. He asserts that individuals are not a “mechanism” where they can be “produced millions alike” and thus, spirituality is something individuals can personalize and make entirely their own own. Kashdan & Nezlek (2012, pp. 21) also affirm Osho (1976)'s position, where unlike religion, “feelings, thoughts and behaviours are not organized role systems, rituals and worships.” Ghose (1974), another spiritual teacher, explains religion as “seeking the depth of life,” whereas spirituality “wants to see the reality of life and in life.” Similarly, both religion and spirituality are organized according to perspective and beliefs, where one is herd-like, the other, personal and “private” de (2004, pp. 4).

What is the Goal of Spirituality?

Kashdan & Nezlek (2012, pp. 1524) defines spirituality's goal as “committing to something larger than oneself,” leading to “motivation to search for meaning in one's life, actively comprehending and making sense of prior events and possible futures.” de (2004, pp. 140) identifies this as “spiritual surrender,” where an individual is “giving up control” of their life “for something greater.” In light of this, Osho (1976) says meaning is the individual's goal, and therefore becoming “part of a greater unity.” For Nelson (2009, pp. 9), it is living a “natural experience” with “personal values, connectedness, making life worthwhile and death meaningful.” For Einstein, it is “to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty” Haselhurst (2012); spirituality was a source for wonder throughout his life as a theoretical physicist. Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla, defines it as an attempt to “free the human being from material bonds” Fecha (N.d), whereas de (2004, pp. 10) suggests it is the meaningfulness in one's life, linking to “the balanced appreciation of material values and altruistic attitude toward others, a vision for a betterment of the world, and a serious awareness of the tragic side of life.” Ghose (1974) affirms the goal of spirituality as heightening self-awareness in the individual by educating their inner self through meditation. Meditation as described by PBS (2009) — A mental exercise that “strengthens” one's “capacity to remain connected to the present moment of experience,” learning to “open and focus” one's mind, while maintaing a non-judgmental attitude. Unlike prayer, PBS (2009) considers meditation as the “stable resting of mind.” Furthermore, Ghose (1974) explains two forces of education — outer and inner. He claims that outer education “tells us what the world is doing” whereas inner education “tells us what we can do.”

In the studies later explored, research will show how subjects “recognize there is greater good that underlies a negative situation,” by focusing inward, not necessarily by meditation, but overall, on a situation external to them and beyond their control de (2004, pp. 36), while also provided with “emotional assurances” noted by Dalmida (2006, pp. 189) and internal meaning in times of disaster and crisis, giving the individuals strength and overall quality of life.

How Does Spirituality Contribute to our Overall Happiness?
Kashdan & Nezlek (2012) conducted a study of spirituality and its relation to individual well-being. By comparing two groups: spiritual and non-spiritual, they were able to examine the correlations to well-being through questionnaires and diaries filled out daily by the 150 subjects studied, basing well-being on their levels of self-esteem each day. Kashdan & Nezlek (2012, pp. 1526) tested whether or not the subjects were spiritual through questionnaires consisting of numbered scale ranging from 1 to 7, where 1=strongly disagree and 7=strongly agree, later relating to their daily self-esteem, eg. statements such as "I felt like a failure," daily meaning in life, daily negative affect and daily positive affect. Kashdan & Nezlek (2012, pp. 1524) found that the subjects who considered themselves spiritual were more subject to “greater happiness, self-esteem and optimism,” and therefore more likely to live a more meaningful life. Furthermore, they found that meaning “provides a stable platform for creating and sustaining a well-lived life” for personal growth and self-actualization, while extending to “positive relationships” and “social connectedness.” It is also noted by Kashdan & Nezlek (2012, pp. 1524) that “theorists have contended that meaning in life might account for associations between spirituality and other dimensions of well-being” while measuring well-being through self-esteem by “how much people feel accepted and valued by others” to create positive relationships. In short, “people are fundamentally motivated to feel accepted by others” Kashdan & Nezlek (2012, pp. 1524).

Spirituality and Faith-Based Interventions: Pathways to Disaster Resilience for African American Hurricane Katrina Survivors
Alawiyah, et al. (2011) focuses on the significance of spirituality and religion in disasters. The aim was to investigate the role of both in African American survivors of Hurricane Katrina, while also touching base on the idea of incorporating spirituality and/or religion to traditional practice, specifically in the area of social work. The findings of Alawiyah, et al. (2011, pp. 296) show faith and spirituality “influence positive adaption despite an exposure to some stressors” as a “source of support.” This study recruited their research respondents from local agencies and shelters over a period of two years through interviewing, observations and situational documentation; drawing point on a survivor's meaning, faith, spirituality, religious activity while seeing the correspondence to either an advantage or hinderance through disaster recovery. Alawiyah, et al. (2011, pp. 306) found the resiliency of survivors were “illustrated by their positive adaption to their new situation: searching for jobs, looking for permanent housing, and accessing available material and social supports.” Survivors were able to “transform the experience of trauma of the hurricane through altruism and helping others” by their “ability to maintain hope and optimism,” providing a sense of community and empowerment in the aftermath of crisis. In doing so, Alawiyah, et al. (2011, pp. 314) suggests both matters, whether spiritual or religious, “provide appropriate resources” that “can be a source of resilience” during disaster recovery.

The Role of Spirituality in How Filipino Immigrants Conceptualize and Cope With Crisis
de (2004)'s research shows the importance of spirituality as a coping mechanism in crisis for Filipino immigrants in the U.S, allowing them to “perceive life as worth living” while helping them understand the “buffer against life stressors” de (2004, pp. 6). As the fastest growing Asian group, de (2004, pp. 1) affirms that “spirituality has been found to be an important part of the Filipino's immigrant identity” as well as making “sense of their world amidst adversity.” de (2004) interviewed six Filipino immigrants directly to further understand their perspectives in times of crisis, in light of seeing the value spirituality can be if integrated into mental health treatment. Arguably, de (2004, pp. 3) also puts emphasis on the “individualistic society” in the U.S, resulting to “less community,” leading to suffering and failing alone in times of hardships. It is spirituality that provides a sense belonging and acceptance, with an improved “sense of coherence, ultimately, improving and sustaining mental health,” as noted by de (2004, pp. 85), through various coping strategies regarding spirituality.

Spirituality, Mental Health, Physical Health, and Health-Related Quality of Life Among Women with HIV/AIDS: Integrating Spirituality into Mental Health Care
Dalmida (2006, pp. 185)'s research presents the use of “spirituality as a resource” for HIV-positive women “to enhance their psychological well-being and health-related quality of life.” Through exploring the integration “of spirituality into traditional mental health treatment” for HIV-positive women with the diagnosis of depression, Dalmida (2006, pp. 32) discusses the significance of spirituality towards their overall well-being. For Dalmida (2006, pp. 188), her research expresses the “positive influence” spirituality has on HIV-positive women, giving them a higher sense of meaning and purpose by finding “inner strengths” and “harmonious interconnectedness.” Dalmida (2006, pp. 187) suggests the “HIV-infected person must explore the significance” and “meaning in their illness,” Dalmida (2006, pp. 190).

Leo Tolstoy (philosopher)

In My Confession, Tolstoy (1882, pp. 5) experiences an existential crisis in his later years, leaving him “no foundation to stand on.” Tolstoy (1882, pp. 5) found his life meaningless, which he later concludes, only existed because he was investigating life with “rational knowledge”. He discovers that his crisis was not similar amongst peasants who lived meaningfully and happily with faith, as “a necessary condition” of life, passing in “idleness, amusements” and “hard work” Tolstoy (1882, pp. 6). Such a realization and experience was enlightening to Tolstoy, as he affirms the value of life with his commitment through faith. He ends My Confession with:

I saw that all that was mere pampering of the appetites, and that no meaning could be found in it; but the life of all the working masses, of all humanity, which created life, presented itself to me in its real significance. Tolstoy (1882, pp. 7).

To which James (1902, pp. 11) will latterly note, as “genuine habitat.”

William James (philosopher)

In The Varieties of Religious Experience, James (1902, pp. 1) provides two abstract concepts regarding the health of individuals: the healthy minded and the sick soul. Unlike the healthy soul, the health minded's suffering is always in principle, “curable,” through “modifying either the self or the things, or both at once,” in which he metaphorically describes the healthy minded “go merry as a marriage bell again.” And yet, James (1902, pp. 7) explains that the immediate discard of negative situations in life of the healthy minded is “averting one's attention from evil,” resulting in further knowledge that is crucial to the understanding of the human condition. In contrast, James (1902, pp. 1) explains the sick soul as one with “a misery-threshold,” condemning them to a life lived “in darkness and apprehension.” The solution for the sick soul, as proposed by James (1902, pp. 15), includes the “transformation in the whole expression of reality.” Thus, a metaphysical solution must be adapted in order to be “reborn” or “twice-born,” whether “gradually or suddenly,” by turning to faith like Tolstoy, in which, James (1902, pp. 11) describes as getting one's “soul in order” through “the discovery of its genuine habitat and vocation,” adapting Tolstoy's view of meaning, values and happiness found in peasants.

Heather Waxman (soul seeker)

Heather Waxman (2011), a “soul seeker” who has “created a strong community of love and inspiration through her powerful blog posts and strong presence on social media.” Heather turned to spirituality at a low peak of her eating disorder three years ago and has now followed her intuition to pursue a life of spirit. Heather Waxman (2011) is a “life coach, writer, musician, and speaker.” She also creates guided meditation podcasts on iTunes and YouTube videos. Like Ghose (1974), she is an advocate of cultivating the inner world of the individual. In her blog, she often speaks about “surrendering” to the universe and allowing it to be a guide. Similarly, this perspective is in equal measure with de (2004)'s idea of “spiritual surrendering” to gain a feeling of acceptance, which Heather addresses frequently in her writing. From hating herself to now loving herself, Heather has made the transformation through spirituality to live a life of meaning and overall well-being.

In short, spirituality is structured around the individual, providing a sense of meaning that is personal and changeable. Religion, in contrast, occurs collectively where the same belief, meaning and activity apply to a large sum or group of individuals. Moreover, it is shown in various findings that spirituality is indeed connected to well-being and happiness. As shown by Kashdan & Nezlek (2012), spirituality results in self-esteem, leading to a sense of acceptance and well-being. Although french philosopher Albert Camus (1942) was never spiritual, he did put emphasis on the absurd: the attempt to find meaning in existence and the inability to find it, leading to depression and the considerable act of suicide. As explored in the studies above, spirituality provides a sense of meaningfulness and value in an individual's life, increasing their overall well-being by their positive attitude and motivation to seek meaning in situations that appear to hold none. Moreover, a philosopher by the name of Thomas Hobbes (1651, pp. 185), argues the conceptual history of human beings in Leviathan as a state of “nature” in relation to the “rights of nature” Hobbes (1651, pp. 189), where all beings by nature, are bind to their own self-preservation. In many cases, spirituality is linked as a coping mechanism in disaster and/or in crisis of an individual's life, in which, it becomes a necessary solution to rekindle one's existence and well-being in whole, contributing to their right, as according to Hobbes (1651), for individual self-preservation. Thus, the individual lives a life of increased well-being and overall happiness in favour of their own self-preservation when threatened by negative or even meaningless situations that can affect them either physically, psychologically or both. As presented above through conducted research, individual experience and philosophy, it is suggested in various cases that spirituality can provide such.

— Susan Chen

Alawiyah, T., Bell, H., Pyles, L., & Runnels, R. C. (2011). Spirituality and Faith-based Interventions: Pathways to Disaster Resilience for African American Hurricane Katrina Survivors. Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought, 30(3), 294-319. DOI:10.1080/15426432.2011.587388. Retrieved electronically from

Berrett, M., Hardman, R., O'Grady, K., & Richards, P. (2007). The role of spirituality in the treatment of trauma and eating disorders: recommendations for clinical practice. Eating Disorders, 15(4), 373-389. Retrieved electronically from

Camus, A. (1942). The Myth of Sisyphus. Phil 1100: The Meaning of Life Course Kit (pp. 1-3). Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2000. Text.

Dalmida, S. G. (2006). SPIRITUALITY, MENTAL HEALTH, PHYSICAL HEALTH, AND HEALTH-RELATED QUALITY OF LIFE AMONG WOMEN WITH HIV/AIDS: INTEGRATING SPIRITUALITY INTO MENTAL HEALTH CARE. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 27(2), 185-198. DOI:10.1080/01612840500436958. Retrieved electronically from

de, l. P. (2004). The role of spirituality in how filipino immigrants conceptualize and cope with crisis. (Order No. 3114115, Alliant International University, San Francisco Bay). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 170-170. UMI: 305052920. Retrieved electronically from

Ghose, C. K. (1974). Philosophy, religion and spirituality. Sri Chinmoy. Lecture. Retrieved electronically from

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Hobbes, T. (1651). Of Man. Leviathan. (pp. 185-189). Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd. N/d. Print.

James, W. (1902). The Variaties of Religious Experience: The Sick Soul. Phil 1100: The Meaning of Life Course Kit (pp. 1-11). N/P. Print.

Kashdan, T. B., & Nezlek, J. B. (2012). Whether, when, and how is spirituality related to well-being? moving beyond single occasion questionnaires to understanding daily process. Personality and Social, 38(11) 1523-1535. DOI: 10.1177/0146167212454549. Retrieved from

Nelson, J. M. (2009). Introduction to psychology, religion, and spirituality. Psychology, religion and spirituality, 1-11. ISBN: 9780387875736, 0387875735. New York: London Springer. Retrieved electronically from

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Tolstoy, L. (1882). My Confession. Phil 1100: The Meaning of Life Course Kit (pp. 1-6). HarperCollins Canada, 1995. Text.

Waxman, H. (2011). Home and About. HeatherWaxman. N/p. N/d. Retrieved electronically from

Project Conclusion

In the final analysis, despite the differences in our sectioned findings, the question remains constant: Are religious people happier? With a brief presentation about religion and it's background, we are able to have a glance at how religion emerged, while also considering it's current decline and diminishing. Ultimately, it can possibly further our understanding about the religious and happiness correlation, and why people adapt and identify with a religion in the first place while also making note of belief systems and how they influence one's happiness. Whether it can provide security and comfort, when concerning mental health, our findings have shown that those who place high importance on religious values correlated with a higher depression rate. And yet, although atheists are heavier with alcoholic substances, their mental health were much healthier than the religious persons. Between the religious persons and atheists, we are able get a glimpse at how religion can reflect an individual's mental health through several more studies, later concluding that although religious persons are more prone to depression, religion is not the cause of their poor mental health: it is only a contributing factor. Additionally, we also explore the physical side of health, it's contribution to happiness and how it correlates with religion. We found that religious persons were actually less likely to drink or smoke, while also covering religious involvement and health outcomes. Lastly, we explore spirituality: an extension or cousin of religion where individuals are able to a life of value and meaning by committing to something larger than themselves. Overall, we found indeed, spirituality correlates to happiness and overall well-being under certain life conditions. It is shown in particular situations such as disaster and crisis, spirituality plays a significant role in an individual's life by providing meaning in negative outcome situations. Furthermore, it provides an insight on how it contrasts with religion by putting more emphasis on the individual and their uniqueness of life experience.

To summarize our research, we cannot fully conclude that religious people are happier people. While even conflicting the original question, we can conclude that religion has a great impact on one's physical and mental well-being, whether positively or negatively. Furthermore, in light of happiness, research has shown spiritual individuals are more positive, motivated, happier and have an increased level of self-esteem and overall well-being.

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