For most people, feeling happy and finding life meaningful are both important and related goals. But do happiness and meaning always go together? While happiness and a sense of meaning often overlap, they also diverge in important and surprising ways.
As one might expect, people’s happiness levels were positively correlated with whether they saw their lives as meaningful. However, the two measures were not identical – suggesting that what makes us happy may not always bring more meaning, and vice versa. To probe for differences between the two, it’s important to ask detailed questions about people’s feelings and moods, their relationships with others, and their day-to-day activities. Feeling happy was strongly correlated with seeing life as easy, pleasant, and free from difficult or troubling events. Happiness was also correlated with being in good health and generally feeling well most of the time. However, none of these things were correlated with a greater sense of meaning. Feeling good most of the time might help us feel happier, but it doesn’t necessarily bring a sense of purpose to our lives.
However, having enough money seemed to make little difference in life’s sense of meaning. People who are wealthy tend to be happier, however, they don’t see their lives as meaningful, while people who are not that wealthy tend to see their lives as more meaningful. This might be related to having a purpose in life, doing things that are important to and for them, being connected to people and stronger social ties among those that matters. Perhaps instead of saying that “money doesn’t buy happiness,” we ought to say “money doesn’t buy meaning.”
Not too surprisingly, our relationships with other people are related to both how happy we are as well as how meaningful we see our lives. Feeling more connected to others improved both happiness and meaning. However, the role we adopt in our relationships makes an important difference. In addition, spending more time with friends was related to greater happiness but not more meaning.
When it comes to thinking about how to be happier, many of us fantasize about taking more vacations or finding ways to avoid tasks. However, some tasks which don’t make us happy can, over time, add up to a meaningful life. Even routine activities – talking on the phone, cooking, cleaning, housework, meditating, emailing, praying, reading book and balancing finances – appeared to bring more meaning to people’s lives, but not happiness in the moment. In conclusion, happiness can be attained in things which we already have but don’t realize the true meaning . Value and cherish each moment of those precious moments!
By Shabnam Khan, Personal Development Worker at Semiahmoo House Society
Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community.
The Semiahmoo Foundation exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.