How to Achieve Happiness as a Grant Professional: Have Faith

From the ancient Greeks to the present, we have debated the meaning of happiness. Today, there is a renewed interest in this subject from economists, political scientists, and psychologists.  What makes people happy, and how might grant professionals achieve a feeling of well-being inside and outside the workplace?

If social capital and not income or commodities is the most important source of happiness and life satisfaction for grant professionals, then I think we need to re-examine the way we work and live.

Along with marriage, social connections, and health, religion and religious activities are strongly associated with social capital and happiness. People involved with religious organizations are less likely to smoke and drink alcohol than those who are uninvolved. Religious people also tend to have longer life spans and a more optimis­tic outlook on life than their non-religious cohorts.

Organizations where people worship to­gether are one of the most important sources of social capital in America. Half of all mem­berships in the US are religious in character; more than half of all individual charitable contributions go to religious organizations; and more than half of all volunteering occurs.

However, evangelical and fundamentalist religious social capital usually stays within the church, and church attendance is not positively correlated with community involvement. These denominations are less likely than other religious institutions to of­fer social programs and community outreach services, except right-to-life activities.

People with strong spiritual beliefs are happier than those who lack them. Being ac­tive in religious institutions often improves health and lengthens life spans. Despite the fire and brimstone and sermons about guilt and sin that pour forth from many religious institutions, religious people are more opti­mistic than their nonreligious neighbors.

Religious institutions help congregants make friends, provide opportunities to learn important social and leadership skills, provide a support network when illness and tragedy strike, and encourage volunteerism and gen­erosity. The exceptions to these religious gener­alizations are evangeli­cal and fundamentalist churches, which do not foster civic engagement.

Nonbelievers, how­ever, should not join re­ligious institutions just to become happier. In the words of one schol­ar, “true religious belief is founded on a spiritual commitment, not on prudential maneuvers.” Adopting religious faith as a strategy to achieve a greater sense of well-being is likely to fail. Happiness is probably a by-product of religious participation, not a cause, because it is social in nature.

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