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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Happy Life vs. a Meaningful Life

In my prior article, Are You Waiting For Happiness?, I focused on the issue of people waiting for a person, event or something else that is external for them to be happy.  In this article, I'm discussing the issue I began to address in my prior article, happy life vs. a meaningful life (see my article: Living Authentically, Aligned With Your Values).

A Happy Life vs. a Meaningful Life

The Difference Happiness and Meaning in Your Life
Although many people have similar values, what's meaningful to one person can be very different from what is meaningful to another person with the same values.

What Research Says
Stanford research study explored the differences between happiness and meaningfulness and discovered the following differences:
  • Satisfying your desires can provide happiness, but it had nothing to do with a sense of meaningfulness.  The example that they gave was that a healthy person are usually happier than sick  people, but sick people's lives don't lack meaning.
  • While happiness is about the present, meaningfulness links the past, present and the future.
  • Interpersonal connections are important to both happiness and meaningfulness.  And, while spending time with casual friends might add to happiness, deep relationships, which require working on challenges, like family relationships, are more meaningful.
  • People who have a high degree of meaningfulness in their lives often encounter negative issues, which can result in unhappiness.  One example given in the study is that raising children can give a sense of joy, but it's also connected to high stress, which can be meaningful but can also lead to unhappiness.  Another example is that while retirement can lead to happiness because people no longer have the pressure of their jobs, a sense of meaningfulness can drop.
  • Meaningfulness is about expressing and defining yourself and your personal identity, whereas happiness is getting what you want.  A meaningful life is connected to a valued sense of self and your purpose your life and community.
  • You can find meaning in life and still be unhappy.
  • You can be happy and yet lack meaning in your life.
  • Happiness without meaning often leads to a shallow and self-centered life.
  • A meaningful life gives you a sense of purpose and direction where you are aligned with your values.
Getting Help in Therapy
Understanding what is meaningful to you is a process--it's not a one-time event that you settle once and for all.

In addition, what is meaningful to you at one stage in your life could be different from what it would be at a different stage as life changes and you continue to grow as a person.

Discovering what is meaningful to you can be challenging at various points in your life and might conflict with what might make you happy at the moment but would provide meaning in the long run.

Working with a skilled psychotherapist can help you to identify what is important to you, help you to develop insight into yourself and work through these issues.

These are issues that most people struggle with at some point in their lives.  Rather than struggling alone, you could get help in therapy so you can lead a more meaningful life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212 726-1006 or email me.


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