Community//

Why Meaning is More Valuable Than Happiness

Your pursuit of happiness may be causing more harm than good. Many people who focus on being happy have only fleeting moments of joy, and they often have low resilience. People who pursue meaning, however, have stronger psychological health and higher resilience. Here are some tips on how to find meaning in your life.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

Your pursuit of happiness may be causing more harm than good. Many people who focus on being happy have only fleeting moments of joy, and they often have low resilience.

People who pursue meaning, however, have stronger psychological health and higher resilience.

Several studies over the past few years have found weak associations between happiness and adaptive functioning. Other research highlights the temporary benefits of happiness versus long-term gains from meaning.

One researcher compared students who did things that made their life meaningful with those who focused on their happiness. Initially, the ” happy” group got happier, and the “meaningful” group felt they had more meaning. But three months later, the happy feelings of the “happy” group faded while the students who had pursued meaning said they felt more “enriched,” “inspired,” and “part of something greater than myself.” They also reported fewer negative moods.

Viktor Frankl reached the same conclusions after being imprisoned in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he writes that prisoners who lost meaning died more quickly than those who still had meaning despite their hardships.

Emily Esfahani Smith explains in her 2017 book, The Power of Meaning, that having a meaningful life is different from being happy. She explains that “the happy life is an easy life, one in which we feel good much of the time and experience little stress or worry.” However, “the pursuit of happiness was linked to selfish behavior — being a taker rather than a giver.”

Here are some things you can do if you’re looking for more meaning in your life:

Join a group

One of the quickest ways to add meaning to your life is to be active in a group. Not part of a group? Join one. No groups to join? Start one.

Tell your story

Write your story. Where do you come from, who influenced you growing up, and what are your dreams and aspirations? Do you have a redemption story from a time when you experienced an adverse event followed by a positive development?

Write your obituary

How do you want people to remember you when you die? Are you that person right now? If not, what do you need to change to be that person?

Volunteer

Helping other people is one of the best ways to bring meaning into your life. Look for ways you can give your time and energy to a good cause, a friend, or a family member.

Find your passion

Being passionate about something other than your work can provide significant meaning in your life. What brings you joy and excitement? Make time for it.

Have faith

Many people find deep meaning in their religious beliefs. If you are devout, strengthen your faith and participate in religious gatherings.

What do you think about the difference between meaning and happiness? How do you find meaning?

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Purpose//

Why You Should Choose Meaning Over Happiness

by James Hollis, PhD
Well-Being//

How to Create More Happiness in your Life

by Sarah Blick
Community//

Does being a mother of 7 actually make me less happy, according to science?

by Rachel Denning

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.