People who go to church have higher levels of well-being than those who don’t, according to a Gallup Poll; but a study in the American Sociological Review shows that happiness has more to do with your friendships at your place of worship than your faith. Chaeyoon Lim, a sociology professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison, says “the evidence substantiates that it is not really going to church and listening to sermons or praying that makes people happier, but making church-based friends and building intimate social networks there.”
With faith-based friendships, people experience a sense of connectedness and belonging that may improve their sense of well-being. Cultivate your friendships at your church, synagogue or place of worship, and you just may end up more satisfied with your life. Try these reminders:
Be the person you want to meet. If you want a friend, be a friend. Your smile and friendly banter can easily lead to new friendships at church. Greet people and introduce yourself to someone new each week. Consider attending your place of worship at the same time weekly so you can see many of the same faces. Recognition more easily leads to new friendships. Ask another person or family out for breakfast or coffee after a service. Gretchen Rubin, best-selling author of The Happiness Project says, “Radiate energy and good humor. Because of the phenomenon of ‘emotional contagion,’ people catch the emotions of other people, and they prefer to catch an upbeat, energetic mood.”
Don’t just attend services; attend the activities hosted by your congregation. People who attend functions hosted by their church are likely to have similar interests and values, and more open to making new friendships. Events after services are often more casual in nature and more conducive to forging friendships.
Get to know the leaders in your church or synagogue. If you attend services at a large congregation, it can be a bit intimidating trying to get to know people in the beginning. If you are new to your church or synagogue, focus on the leadership first—because it’s their job to know everyone, and they can introduce you to other people.
Volunteer- Offer to make food for a function, hand out bulletins or welcome newcomers; organize an event or help with community fundraisers; get involved with religious study, youth groups, sporting events or other projects affiliated with your church. As you work alongside others, friendships will naturally evolve. “Rather than trying to figure out what everybody can do for you, start looking for things you can do for somebody else,” says Joel Osteen, pastor of the Lakewood Church whose church sermons are broadcast worldwide. “Make relational deposits wherever you go. Be a giver rather than a taker. Give compliments freely and seek to make every person you meet feel important.”
Faith and friendships offer a sense of connectedness that’s tied closely to personal contentment. Friendships with a shared religious connection you can count on for social support provide a sense of security and belonging. As you invest in others and build your community of friendships, you also will be making deposits in your own well-being.
Sandra Bienkowski, owner of The Media Concierge, LLC, is a national writer of wellness and personal development content and a social media expert.