Based on research by Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., Aaker, J. L., & Garbinsky, E. N. (2013) written by Mara Rowcliffe, MS.
What choices lead to a life full of happiness, one full of meaning? Can we have both?
A psychology research study identified key differences between a happy life and a meaningful one. Researchers evaluated almost 400 adults’ relationships between their level of happiness and meaning. They reviewed details of their lives including their behavior, mood, relationships, health, stress levels, work, and more.
Results indicated that while a meaningful life and a happy one tend to overlap, they exhibit some key differences. First, having good health, wealth, and overall ease in life was related to happiness but not meaning. Happiness involved focusing more on the present, whereas meaning focused on a broader life view of the past, present, future, and the relationships between them. Happiness linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness linked to giver, and less taker. Yet, meaningful lives included challenges. Participants who showed higher levels of worry and stress also exhibited more meaningfulness but less happiness. This suggests that striving for meaning and purpose does lead to challenges and stress, but perhaps deeper sense of fulfillment.
Consider what gives your life meaning. Do your choices promote a sense of purpose, happiness, or both?
Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., Aaker, J. L., & Garbinsky, E. N. (2013). Some key differences between a happy life and a meaningful life. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(6), 505-516.