the meaning of life & happiness

Happiness = purpose + meaning 

Happiness = purpose + meaning 

The psychology of happiness and practical tools on purpose

The search for happiness seems to be a preoccupation of many.  Magazines, blogs and bookstores are filled with titles claiming to have the answer on how to achieve happiness.   Yet happiness seems to remain an elusive quality to sustain.   Depression, anxiety and stress rates are soaring and more people are seeking psychological therapy for mental health issues than ever before. 

Perhaps the answer doesn’t lie in directly pursuing happiness for happiness’ sake, but rather happiness might be a by-product of attaining something else – the pursuit of life meaning and purpose.  This idea isn’t new.  In fact, the Stoics’ had a habit of looking for moments of awe and transcendence (not happiness).

Look to the stars of the sky to dust off the dirt of daily life.

      - Marcus Aurelius

Here are some practical, psychology tools that are worth incorporating today to help pursue meaning to life and for happiness to follow.

Create habits in your daily life around these 4 pillars of meaning – belonging, purpose, storytelling and transcendence.

For example,

1.     Belonging - Actively foster connections with those around you - whether it is family, friends, work colleagues or communities. A sense of “I belong” is what we need and often crave.

2.     Storytelling -  Craft a narrative or story about your life and you might do this by keeping a journal where you can process different experiences.  Try to keep the tone positive, even when you write about things that were difficult – look for what you can learn from difficult situations.   

3.     Transcendence -  Spend time regularly in places or doing activities that spark joy and inspire awe in you, like time in nature, visiting an art museum or listening to music.  Technology can be a real barrier to both transcendence and belonging, so try to get some control over over-use. 

4.      Purpose – This is the why you do, what you do.  Or the reason you get up in the morning.  It doesn’t have to be grandiose, like ‘saving the world’, but it needs to be something meaningful to you and beyond yourself. 

Achieving happiness or feeling happy is not a final destination. It’s just one experience of many in a rich, full life.     Try these psychological strategies to switch your focus toward living a meaningful life and happiness will follow. 

 by Lydia Rigano