Have you noticed that our culture is kind of obsessed with happiness? This “happiness frenzy” is constantly telling us that achieving happiness is the answer to all of our problems: You’ll be healthier! You’ll be better-liked! Your career will be more successful!
And yet, psychologists have started to look more closely at how seeking happiness affects people and unearthed some unsettling trends: the pursuit of happiness, it turns out, negatively affects our well-being. Those who put the greatest emphasis on being happy reported 50% less frequent positive emotions, 35% less satisfaction with their lives, and 75% more depressive symptoms.
It’s not that happiness is bad, but when we make it the sole focus of our lives, we get distracted from the things that actually contribute to a deeper sense of well-being. So what should we focus on instead?
sugg-jess-tion #9: The Power of Meaning TED Talk
In a new TED Talk, my friend and fellow positive psychology expert Emily Esfahani Smith explains that happiness is really a byproduct of a different pursuit: meaning in life. Smith’s talk is based on the research from her book, The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters, in which she outlines four pillars upon which meaning rests:
- Belonging: Finding our tribe and forging relationships in which we feel understood, recognized, and valued to know we matter to others.
- Purpose: A far-reaching goal that motivates us, serves as the organizing principle of our lives, and drives us to make a contribution to the world.
- Storytelling: Taking our disparate experiences and assembling them into a coherent narrative that allows us to make sense of ourselves and the world.
- Transcendence: Through transcendent or mystical experiences, feeling that we have risen above the everyday world and are connected to something vast and meaningful.
Curious what your primary pillar of meaning is? Take the quiz HERE to find out and start cultivating a meaningful life today!