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Monday, January 12, 2009

Spirituality (Not Religion) Makes Kids Happy

Spirituality—defined as an inner belief system that provides strength and comfort—is key to how happy a child is, according to a new study by psychologist Mark Holder at the University of British Columbia and his colleagues Judi Wallace and Ben Coleman.
In adults and adolescents, both spirituality and religiousness have been linked to increased happiness, but in children 8 to 12, the researchers found, two aspects of spirituality—feeling one's life has meaning and value (the personal aspect) and deep, quality interpersonal relationships (the communal aspect)—are strong predictors of happiness. "Enhancing personal meaning may be a key factor in the relationship between spirituality and happiness," the researchers say, and to that end, encouraging children to express kindness toward others, perform altruistic acts, and volunteer might help make them happier.
Organized religious practices and rituals, on the other hand—like going to church, praying, or meditating—seem to have little effect on children's happiness.
The study appears in the Journal of Happiness Studies. —Heather Wax