What's the difference between a happy life and a meaningful one?

Posted on December 17, 2013

Being more of a taker was related to greater happiness but less meaningfulness, whereas being more of a giver was linked with less happiness but more meaningfulness.

For some it's lying on a sun-drenched beach sipping sangria, for others it's wallowing in a cosy cocoon munching on chocolate and playing video games. Many people will admit that these or other immediate indulgences are what makes them happy. And yet, even given the freedom and resources to live a life of hedonism, many of us find it's not enough - we want to have meaning in our lives too.

Unfortunately, what we mean by "meaning" has largely been neglected by psychologists. But now Roy Baumeister and his colleagues have conducted an in-depth online survey with 397 adults (68 per cent female; average age 36) and a follow-up with 124 students (45 per cent female; average age 21). The researchers tapped the participants' happiness levels, and their feelings of having a meaningful life, three times over a month. They also asked them a raft of other questions with the aim of identifying factors that were related to happiness but not meaningfulness, or vice versa.

Although happiness and meaningfulness tend to go together (they correlated at .63 and .70 where 1 would be a perfect match), Baumeister's team made some thought-provoking discoveries about ways they differ. People who rated their lives as easier, who had good health, enough money to buy what they wanted, were more short-term oriented, felt connected to others, and experienced low stress and worry, also tended to rate themselves as happier. Yet these same factors had either no association with meaningfulness or the opposite association.

Some of the results were particularly telling. Being more of a taker was related to greater happiness but less meaningfulness, whereas being more of a giver was linked with less happiness but more meaningfulness.

Click on the link below to read the full article


Category(s):Happiness

Source material from British Psychological Society


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