As humans, we are naturally curious creatures, trying to understand things we cannot explain. Spirituality is a way for us to solve those life’s mysteries and give us true meaning. Being spiritual has a powerful positive effect on our happiness and health. Positive psychology, much like spirituality, focuses on giving our lives meaning. The principles of positive psychology can be used in conjunction with your spiritual journey to help you reach the highest version of yourself.
What is positive psychology and how does it relate to spirituality?
Positive psychology is a branch of science focused on the positive aspects of the human experience. It is concerned with eudaimonia, or a more in-depth version of happiness. Positive psychologists look to help people flourish by focusing on their strengths and virtues, rather than their weaknesses and negative emotions. They do not attempt to find a perfect definition of what it means to be happy; however, they agree that someone must live a joyful, engaged, and meaningful life to experience “the good life.” Those that practice positive psychology strive to accept their past, gain excitement about the future, and have a sense of gratefulness and contentment with the present.
Tal Ben-Shahar, a renowned teacher of positive psychology, defines happiness as “the overall experience of pleasure and meaning.” A happy person is not satisfied because they only experience positive emotions. They are pleased because they identify their lives as meaningful. They feel they are contributing some way to their community and 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.
What are the benefits of positive psychology?
Those who practice positive psychology are better able to cope with stress are more likely to have gratitude for life’s enjoyable events, and more gracefully process challenging ones. Spirituality is a way of practicing positive psychology. Whether it is due to feeling supported by a higher power or feel connected to something bigger than oneself, spiritual people identify with life as purposeful rather than random and meaningless. Spiritual people are at peace with the chaos of the world around them.
Spirituality and positive psychology help people to identify their values and appreciate the same values in others. Spiritual people are more altruistic, compassionate, and forgiving of others because they identify with what connects rather than what separates them from others. Religious traditions typically center around community and belonging, which facilitates relationships. One of the highest indicators for a happy life is strong relationships. Studies have found that spiritual people will have overall more positive relationships with their partners, friends, family, and strangers.
How can I practice positive psychology?
Positive psychologists want people to live significant lives, not just good or pleasant ones. There are practical applications of positive psychology to help you achieve your most authentic self. You have probably engaged in spiritual practices throughout your life such as prayer, meditation, journaling, volunteering that already put you on the path to being a more positive person. Keeping a gratitude diary, focusing on self-improvement, living out your virtues, and mindful meditations are just a few of the ways to put positive psychology at work for you. It encourages you to act and change your lifestyle for the better.
At our core, we desire to live a fulfilled life. Everyone takes on different spiritual paths, but we are all headed towards the same goal. We are looking for something more. French idealist philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” We can make that experience worth living.