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Meditation, prayer, and other contemplative practices can be ways of cultivating spirituality.

Spirituality is the appreciation of the sacred and a search for meaning beyond ourselves and our reason. Science cannot measure and answer questions about God and faith. But it can measure the effects of faith and spiritual practices on people’s well-being and happiness. And spirituality seems to promote three areas that scientists know improve our happiness: connections with others, a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives, and experiencing positive emotions.


Spirituality can be a way to find purpose and meaning in life. A key part of happiness is the sense that life is worthwhile. We need a sense of meaning to feel that we matter, that our life isn’t futile, and that we have some control over our fate. A sense of meaning for our lives improves our self-esteem.

Spirituality can help provide meaning by giving us:

  • Transcendence; a sense of being part of something larger
  • Purpose and mission in life
  • A way to find meaning in ordinary and traumatic events
  • Satisfaction for our need for explanation
  • A sense of permanence

A spiritual practice or faith tradition also encourages us to value and cultivate positive emotions that are linked to happiness, such as:

  • Awe
  • Inspiration
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Contentment
  • Gratitude
  • Reverence
  • Generosity
  • Compassion
  • Peace
  • Security
  • Wholeness

People who experience more positive emotions are happier than those who experience fewer positive emotions, even if the level of negative emotions is the same.

The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Happiness, by Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener
Psychology Today

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