The next intentional activity from The How of Happiness is practicing spirituality and religion. Recall from my earlier blog that it’s these intentional activities and habits that can account for as much as 40% of our happiness. The first intentional activity was expressing gratitude, the second was deliberate optimism, the third was to stop overthinking and comparing ourselves to others, the fourth was practicing acts of kindness, the fifth was social support, the sixth was coping with stress, the seventh was learning to forgive, the eight was increasing flow, the ninth was savoring the positive, and the tenth was committing to your goals.
Spirituality is defined as a “search for the sacred”- that is, a search for meaning in life through something that is larger than the individual self (self-transcendence is a good label). Spiritual individuals refer to God or to related concepts like divine power or ultimate truth. Religion also involves a spiritual search, but this search usually takes place in a formal, institutional context. However, because the majority of spiritual people define themselves as also religious, the benefits of spirituality are essentially identical to the benefits of religion. Spiritual people are relatively happier than non-spiritual people, have superior mental images, cope better with stressors, have more satisfying marriages, use drugs and alcohol less often, are physically healthier, and live longer lives. People who perceive the divine being as loving and responsive are happier than those that don’t. (Lyumbomirsky, p. 232).
Dr. Lyumbomirsky offers two suggestions for practicing spirituality. Here is how I see her suggestions applied at work:
1. Seek meaning and purpose: Even if you don’t consider yourself a spiritual person, meaningfulness and purpose are contemporary concepts in organizational psychology. Hackman and Oldham’s classic job characteristics model of motivation identifies meaningful work as one of the critical components leading to valued work outcomes. In my own research I found meaningfulness to be one of the best indicators of eustress, the positive response to stress. Here meaningfulness was “the extent to which one feels that work makes sense emotionally, that problems and demands are worth investing energy in, are worthy of commitment and engagement, are challenges that are welcome.” (Simmons, 2000).
And I believe purpose, why we do the work we do, is more powerful that either mission or vision, because purpose lives in the hearts and minds of those that serve and are served by them. I have discussed purpose in my recent articles “Savoring the Positive” and “Flow”.
2. Prayer: I see no reason why a spiritual person could not pray continually while at work. Regardless of how your specific spiritual beliefs define prayer, at work it boils down to being congruent with your authentic self, and seeking the wisdom, strength, and courage to behave consistent with your espoused beliefs. Prayer can be as simple as the spiritual person seeking the answer to the question “what should I do in this situation?” and allowing personal spiritual beliefs the opportunity to influence choices and behavior.
Work is a responsibility, and a huge part of our daily lives. I can’t imagine any spiritual belief system that condones the abdication of personal responsibility. Let me be clear that I would never encourage anyone to proselytize folks at work; however, I don’t think anyone should try to build a wall between their work and their spirituality.
Be professionally authentic to your whole self and positively respectful of anyone with a different perspective than yours.