During the Christmas season, many people attend religious services who normally don’t set foot inside a church. It’s long been known that religious people are generally happier, but what’s their "secret ingredient?" It turns out it’s two things: prayer and community.
Sociologist Chaeyoon Lim says, "Our study offers compelling evidence that it is the social aspects of religion rather than theology or spirituality that leads to life satisfaction. In particular, we find that friendships built in religious congregations are the secret ingredient in religion that makes people happier." According to the study, 33% of people who attend religious services every week and have three to five close friends in their congregation report that they are “extremely satisfied” with their lives. In comparison, only 19% of people who attend religious services weekly, but who have no close friends in their congregation report that they are extremely satisfied.
It also depends on what those people DO when they get together : Those who choose to pray find personalized comfort during hard times. The 75% t of Americans who pray on a weekly basis do so to manage a range of negative situations and emotions–illness, sadness, trauma and anger–but just how they find relief has gone unconsidered by researchers. Sociologist Shane Sharp says that people who are boiling with anger said they found "a readily available listening ear. If they vented their anger to that abusive partner, the result was likely to be more violence, but they could be angry at God while praying without fear of reprisal."