By Therese J. Borchard
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This Emotional Life: Why Does Religion Make People Happier?Harvard psychologist and bestselling author Daniel Gilbert has teamed up with Vulcan Productions and the NOVA/WGBH Science Unit to create a multimedia project called This Emotional Life .
This 3-part documentary ends tonight on PBS. Featured in the third episode is Dr. Edward Diener, who has studied happiness across cultures and has pinpointed some universal reasons that people are happier. One is religion. I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Diener.
Question: Why does religion seem to make people happier?
Dr. Diener: Many studies find that religious people on average are happier. But since not all religious people are happier, and not all religious beliefs seem to lead to happiness, we have to search for the “active ingredient” in what aspect of religion might increase feelings of well-being. In our book on happiness, my son and I argue that one key ingredient is positive spirituality, feeling emotions such as love, awe, wonder, respect, and gratitude that connect us to others and to things larger than ourselves. That is, spirituality can focus us on larger causes than our own personal welfare, and this can give us purpose and meaning. Also, this broader focus on others and purpose can help us quit worrying so much about ourselves. And it can help us connect to others.
Please see "external source" for the complete interview