Do Spiritual and Meditative Practices nurture Happiness ?

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It’s right there, the first of the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha: “Existence is suffering.” If that’s not your bag, you can turn to the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, the preacher who said, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the rich man who built a prosperous life, only to hear from God, “ ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” Across the spectrum of organized religions, the message is clear: the observant should be prepared for their allotment of unhappiness in this mortal vale of tears and put their faith in a happier life to come.

 Which should perhaps make it surprising that scientists have found, again and again, that those with a spiritual practice or who follow religious beliefs tend to be happier than those who don’t. Study after study has found that religious people tend to be less depressed and less anxious than nonbelievers, better able to handle the vicissitudes of life than nonbelievers. A 2015 survey by researchers at the London School of Economics and the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that participating in a religious organization was the only social activity associated with sustained happiness—even more than volunteering for a charity, taking educational courses or participating in a political or community organization. It’s as if a sense of spirituality and an active, social religious practice were an effective vaccine against the virus of unhappiness.

A review published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that even small amounts of meditation training can help with anxiety, depression and pain.

The same goes for the protective qualities of religious belief and spirituality. Some experts think that believing in a religion gives you a greater sense of purpose and meaning in life than a secular viewpoint alone does, and that can help carry you through the low periods and elevate the higher ones. It could be that belief in an afterlife—something nearly all mainstream religions have in common—can make you happier in this one, knowing that you’re headed for something better. (This would be the opiate that Karl Marx believed religion offers to the oppressed masses.) Jesus told his faithful their “reward is great in heaven,” but that promise seems to pay off in the here and now as well.

Indeed, there appears to be something to the idea that faith makes us happier. And it appears that one of the main reasons is that there’s strength in numbers.

The power of the group

Many religions proscribe vices that over time can damage health and, with it, happiness. For instance, Mormons—who aren’t allowed to smoke or to drink alcohol or caffeine—tend to have much lower mortality rates than nonobservers, and much the same is true for abstaining Seventh-day Adventists, who follow vegetarian diets and don’t drink. “Thou shalt not” may seem like a bummer, but scientists have come to understand that the abundance of possible decisions in a free, consumer-driven society can actually weigh us down. (It even has a term, popularized by Swarthmore College psychology professor Barry Schwartz: “the paradox of choice.”) It’s possible that the strictures of religion can help relieve that burden—especially if those strictures, and the religious community that enforces them, discourage unhealthy behaviors.

When it comes to religion and spirituality, it may not be what you believe or how you believe it that protects you from unhappiness so much as the fact that you believe at all—and that you practice those beliefs with other people. Scientists have long known that having strong social ties is one of the greatest guarantors of happiness. Religion isn’t the only social tie that binds—you can join a volunteer group or a bowling league or the parent-teacher association, and you’ll likely be better off than you would be alone.

As anyone who grew up religious knows, though, there’s something about ties of faith that make them particularly sticky. We can grow out of school ties or a hobby or an allegiance to a sports team—less so our faith. Religionderives from the Latin term religio, which means “to bind together.” Atomistic individuals are linked to family—family now and their ancestors—along with friends and community and congregation. It’s not for nothing that Jesus told some of the earliest Christians that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.”

Without that sense of community, religion may not be as strong a protector against unhappiness. In a survey of U.S. adults conducted in 2006 and 2007, researchers led by sociologist Chaeyoon Lim of the University of Wisconsin–Madison found that 33% of those who attended religious services every week and reported having close friends at church said they were extremely satisfied with their lives, while only 19% of those who went to church but had no close connections to the congregation reported the same satisfaction.

In fact, it’s those who are suffering the most in this life who seem to benefit the most from the protective quality of religious community. In a 2011 paper that analyzed self-reports from hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, researchers found that the connection between religious faith and happiness was strongest among people living in difficult conditions—fear, poverty, hunger.

Think of it as scientific proof of the old saying that there are no atheists in the foxhole. When life is hard, the communal support of a religious community—and, presumably, the hope for something better to come in an entirely different world—is especially valuable, maybe even impossible to give up. That may be one reason religious community was so important to slave populations throughout history, from the ancient Israelites under the pharaoh’s boot in Egypt to African Americans trapped in the antebellum South. It may also be why even now in the U.S., states with lower life expectancies and higher poverty rates have the largest proportion of religious people. A rich man may find it harder to get into heaven than a camel does passing through the eye of a needle, but he may not think he needs to count on heaven in the first place.

Being in the majority matters

In well-off but secular countries such as France and the Netherlands, both the religious and the nonreligious report about the same level of happiness and social support. In fact, Gallup data shows that some of the happiest nations in the world—Nordic countries such as Denmark and Sweden, which perennially score high on well-being—are comparatively abundant in atheists. Being completely unreligious—and presumably not worrying much about any kind of afterlife—didn’t seem to stop them from enjoying this life.

You don’t need to be a Marxist to believe that materialism matters to happiness and that people who live in a safe and wealthy country are on the whole going to be happier than those who do not. (If religion provides a kind of existential security in poor countries, the welfare state may do the same in rich ones.) The comparatively low levels of inequality in those unreligious Nordic nations likely play a role too.

Studies also point to the fact that the protective social qualities of religion work best in societies where religion is widely practiced. In other words, it’s important to get right not just with God but with your fellow man. In a fairly religious country like the U.S., it makes sense that being religious would make you happier—you’re with the majority, and studies have repeatedly shown that being in the minority is potentially stressful.

The opposite is true in a country such as the Netherlands, where atheism is widespread. There, a practicing religious person would be in the minority, and instead of that warm communality with your fellow believer, you’d find yourself out of step. Those religious social ties are weaker—and with them, the protective qualities of spirituality.

Another report, from the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that people living in an area with a higher density of co-religionists are more likely to participate in religious activities. There’s also a strong correlation between that religion density and positive economic outcomes, including higher incomes, lower rates of divorce and a higher likelihood of having a college degree. The value of religion depends in part on the cultural values behind it.

Where spirit comes in

The idea that happiness should be the goal of religion is a fairly recent one, and it would have been unrecognizable to the stern Protestants who landed on Plymouth Rock, who believed that the point of existence was the glorification of God—not human happiness. That’s the past, though; today, many of the descendants of those flinty Protestants now preach the prosperity gospel, which explicitly links material success in this life to God’s grace. In this telling, religion doesn’t just deliver community—it can deliver cold, hard cash.

And while the prosperity gospel may be an extreme version, other spiritual practices today explicitly teach happiness as a goal. One of the best-selling books written by the Dalai Lama is called The Art of Happiness. In it, the Buddhist leader describes why happiness is so important. “Isn’t a life based on seeking personal happiness by nature self-centered, even self-indulgent?” he writes. “Not necessarily. In fact, survey after survey has shown that it is unhappy people who tend to be most self-focused and are often socially withdrawn, brooding and even antagonistic.”

The Happiness Medicine Institute's central mission is centered on shouldering the masses (ie majority of People including, but not limited to the low and modest income categories) to meet their fundamental human birth-right of living a fulfilling, healthy and an evolutionarily designed Lifespan of 120 years and beyond. The only son of a Polish Jew mother and a Catholic Frenchmen father from Bordeaux, Christian and has come to the US, like Lafayette, to share the best of French and European experiences with Americans in order to beat the "enemy". In the 18th century, Lafayette, Rochambeau and France were the decisive forces that toppled those nasty British imperialists in Yorktown, thanks to which American sovereignty was made possible. In the 21st century, the "enemy" is chronic stress and an American food, medical and public health system that is un-necessarily maiming and killing Americans by the millions each year. Once (and if) the official standards of care become consistent with the People's basic needs and with the best Science, then Christian's mission will have been accomplished. In terms of bio, Christian was trained in French conventional medicine, Chinese acupuncture, European naturopathy, law, wine and a few other disciplines. He has partaken in thousands of seminars and conferences to corroborate what the safest, most efficient and cost friendly health restoration and lifespan techniques are. To this end, Christian established a research and education center called happiness medicine institute. A former law professor (Paris and Gonzaga School of Law), organic agriculture farmer (certified by Ecocert), professor of holistic oncology, naturopath and director of other health centers, Christian has been specializing for over twenty years in geroscience and biogerontology as both these "optimal longevity" fields of the Health Sciences are much more "holistic" and useful than conventional medicine insofar as slowing down and reversing age-related pathologies is concerned, including the aging process itself. As a result, by better tweaking the aging process and its concomitant longevity determinants, we can modulate and resolve most chronic diseases, including cancer, auto-immunity, diabetes, mental disorders, cardiovascular events and much more. The only rampant malady holistic medicine is powerless to act upon is arrogance (ie, hubris). Thus, not everyone can benefit from Joubert's expertise. If motivated people comply to a holistic lifestyle with specific longevity and happiness techniques, they can die after having peacefully reached 120 without any chronic diseases. Over 95 percent of chronic diseases are completely avoidable. This claim is not constitutive of what is called a "false promise". The evidence is overwhelmingly established, but most pharmaceutical firms and their medical and political allies ignore these claims and-or are not interested, if only because Joubert's proposed holistic techniques do not generate enough cash-flow for corporate appetite to be satieted. This extension of time to 120 years and beyond will give People more opportunities to better enjoy Life (Joie de vivre) and build the conditions that will lead to a new, lasting, healthier and happier civilization based on the exact opposite values and mechanisms of most of today's outdated and irrational standards and systems. Christian investigates Science, medicine and any other phenomena with medically and legally trained eyes. And digs deep, through multiple layers of knowledge and via multiple fields of science, thank to which he is able to identify the inter-connectiveness of relevant issues and determine the key root cause (or causes) upon which the consultee can act. Thus, over 95 percent of published material and common clinical practice is weeded out in order to get to the “crème”, the quintessence, the clinical pearl or what jurists call the “therapeutic relevance” for the benefit of whatever the health challenge may be….. So don't hesitate to schedule an appointment with Christian before he goes away. By doing so, the consultee will learn innovative, safe, efficient and cost-friendly techniques to achieve a healthy lifespan of over 120 years, as the French Mediterranean lady, Jeanne Calment has, (ie, the book of Guinness confirms she is the longest living human ever and most people don't even know why), as the most successful "bleu zone" does (i.e., the French-cultured Principality of Monaco in the Mediterranean South has the most centenarians, most bleu zoners don't know this) and as the French culture and lifestyle have abundantly shown over the last 1600 years, including, but not limited to its Mediterranean diet, Lourdes, its wine, its thermal medicine as well as to its many other health promoting techniques including France's health-vacation spas and other "joie de vivre" institutions that substantially slow down the rate at which telomeres shorten while significantly upregulating (activating) the other eleven hallmarks of Optimal Longevity. Thus, it's not for nothing that the World Health Organization ranked France as having the best health-care system in the world. To read more on France's health-vacation spas and dozens of validated longevity techniques as well as on Christian’s mission and background, click “about” and examine the website's other links. To benefit in vivo from Christian Joubert’s medical, legal, inter-disciplinary and trans-cultural training and experience, CLICK the Consult LINK in the top menu bar. Thank you.

Posted in Meditation, Sophrology, Placebo, Nocebo, Attitude, Intention, Consciousness & Faith

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