Can't Buy Happiness?

Money, personality, and well-being

Why Be Spiritual? Five Benefits of Spirituality

Spiritual people are gracious, optimistic, compassionate, and self-actualized.

Spiritualism--a search for something sacred--is an increasingly important topic to people today. Individuals approach the realm of spirituality through religion, meditation, yoga, or even personal reflection. In a recent study we conducted in my lab, using the data we collected on BeyondThePurchase.org, we investigated the personal and societal benefits of spiritualism by examining participants' responses to over 30 surveys. Here are the top five positive characteristics of spiritual people:

Why be Spiritual?
Spiritual people are gracious. Psychology has demonstrated that expressing gratitude is associated with many positive emotions such as optimism, being generous with time and resources, and overall vitality. Spirituality encourages people to be positive, which may be expressed in many of these life practices.

Spiritual people are compassionate. Experiencing compassion toward others is one the strongest correlates with living a spiritual life. A variety of positive or pro-social emotions have strong links with spiritualism, including allowing one to feel good about the little things in life and look at the world through empathetic eyes.

Spiritual people flourish. Spirituality is linked to many important aspects of human functioning--spiritual people have positive relationships, high self-esteem, are optimistic, and have meaning and purpose in life. 

Spiritual people self-actualize. Spiritual individuals strive toward a better life and consider personal growth and fulfillment as a central goal. Spirituality can be considered to be a path toward self-actualization, because it requires people to focus on their internal values and work on becoming a better individual.

Spiritual people take time to savor life experiences. Individuals who value spirituality take the time to reflect on their daily activities and ultimately build lasting memories of their experiences. Because spiritual people are more conscious of small, daily activities, they experience positive emotions associated with the smaller pleasures in life.

Beyond The Purchase is a website dedicated to understanding the psychology behind spending decisions and the relationship between money and happiness. We study how factors like your values and personality interact with spending decisions to affect your happiness. At Beyond The Purchase you can take quizzes that help you understand what motivates your spending decisions, and you’ll get personalized feedback and tips. For example:

How do you score on the five fundamental dimensions of personality? Take our Big Five personality test and find out.

How do you feel about your past, present, and future? Take the Time Attitudes Survey and learn about your relation with time.

How happy are your Facebook updates? We can analyze your last 25 Facebook status updates and determine how happy you have been.

How happy is your subconscious? Take our Happiness IAT and find out.

With these insights, you can better understand the ways in which your financial decisions affect your happiness. To read more about the connection between money and happiness, go to the Beyond the Purchase blog.

Ryan T. Howell, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University.

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