Meaning In Life - The Impact It Has On Social Progress
The pursuit of meaning in life has a long history that dates back to Ancient Greece. It can be traced back to popular works by people like Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, and continues today in the field of psychology.
Many people have expressed concern about the conceptual refinement of the construct itself, despite the growing interest in meaning in life.
Researchers appear to have two main approaches to figuring out what meaning in life is: coherence and purpose, with a third approach, significance, gaining traction.
A sense of comprehensibility and the ability to make sense of one's life is what coherence entails. A sense of core goals, aims, and life direction is what it means to have a sense of purpose. It's about having a sense of life's inherent worth and living a life worth living.
The experiences of happiness and meaning are highly correlated; most people who report one also report the other. Days when people report feeling happy are frequently followed by days when they report finding meaning.
However, the two have a tense relationship. Happiness and meaning are frequently separated in the present moment.
According to research conducted by social psychologist Roy Baumeister and colleagues, meeting basic needs increases happiness but not meaning. Linking one's sense of self across time and space, on the other hand, promotes meaning but not happiness.
Connecting with others socially is important for happiness and meaning, but doing so in a way that promotes meaning can, at least temporarily, come at the expense of personal happiness.
The recommendation here is clear, given the now-well-documented long-term social, mental, and physical benefits of having a sense of purpose in life. Rather than pursuing happiness as a goal, ensuring that one's activities have meaning may be a better way to live well and thrive throughout one's life.
Understanding why meaning is so important for one's health and happiness leads to a more in-depth look at existential health and its role in societal flourishing. Meaning is beneficial to both psychological and physical health because of its motivating and self-regulatory properties. Physical activity is positively predicted by meaning in life, but not by well-being indicators such as positive affect or optimism, and when people consider what gives their lives meaning, they are more likely to engage in physical activity and exercise for longer periods of time, even if they were previously inactive.
In a broad sense, meaning is what drives people to achieve their goals. When people recall and reflect on meaningful life memories, they report higher levels of meaning and motivation to achieve goals, and this effect is not due to positive affect. These findings show that when people focus on what gives their lives meaning, they become more self-reliant and inspired. These and other findings demonstrate that meaning is not the same as other happiness indicators.
The well-being of a society is inextricably linked to the well-being of its citizens. As a result, the fact that finding meaning in life improves individual happiness is strong evidence that it also improves societal happiness. Individuals who self-regulate their behavior in ways that keep them healthy and help them achieve self-centered goals do not account for the positive impact of meaning on societal well-being. Meaning in life, as well as the agency it provides, has important implications for social and economic well-being, which are both essential components of societal flourishing.
Meaning motivates people to get involved in social and community activities. A number of studies have identified social bonds as a primary source of life meaning. When people are asked to write down what gives their lives meaning, close relationships, for example, are the most frequently mentioned source. According to studies, finding meaning encourages people to seek out social connections.
Stavrova and Luhmann discovered in 2016 that how connected people felt to their community, family, friends, and spouse/partner ten years later was predicted by their sense of meaning in life. In a second study, these researchers found even more evidence for a social motivational function of meaning, finding that higher levels of meaning predicted future participation in voluntary associations and, among single people, a higher likelihood of marrying.
These findings are consistent with laboratory research showing that when people reflect on personally meaningful past social experiences, they become more motivated to pursue social goals and more confident in their ability to resolve relationship issues.
People who say they want to live a meaningful life are more likely to volunteer and donate to charities. This implies that people seeking meaning are more likely to help others and support social organizations that they believe will benefit society.
On a societal level, societal flourishing may be aided by finding meaning in life. Long-term increases in household income and net worth have been linked to having a sense of purpose in life. Because meaning promotes self-control and goal-directed behavior in general, it is more likely to support the types of financial decisions and work-related goals that lead to financial security.
Greater financial security is essential for the economic health of communities and the global economy. Individuals who can meet their own financial needs are better positioned to support other important aspects of community life (such as the arts) and to help those in need through charitable giving.
We know a few things about the people in Steptoe and Fancourt's study who said their lives had more meaning during the first survey. They maintained frequent contact with friends, participated in social groups, volunteered, and followed a variety of healthy sleep, diet, and exercise habits, to name a few.
Several studies have found a causal link between these indicators and life meaning, implying that pursuing these qualities could be a good place to start when looking for meaning.
Some activities have been shown to provide a temporary boost in meaning in the short term, such as imagining a happier future, writing a thank-you note to another person, engaging in nostalgic reverie, and recalling one's close relationships.
Because meaning in life is a resource that helps people cope with stress, uncertainty, anxiety, and trauma, it could also help communities and society as a whole face shared threats and challenges. According to recent research, those dealing with pandemic-related stress have lower levels of anxiety, COVID-19 stress, and mental distress when they have a higher sense of meaning in their lives.
Pandemics, economic recessions, and natural disasters all require psychological fortitude in order for humans to effectively respond to and recover from collective threats. This fortitude not only helps them cope with their own anxieties, but it also inspires them to want to make a positive difference in the world.
Distinguishing coherence, purpose, and significance in life are the three types of meaning.
People's concerns about the central significance and purpose of their personal existence are referred to as "meaning in life."
An existential crisis is a term used to describe this situation. An existential crisis, in its most basic definition, is when you begin to question the purpose and meaning of your life. You start to be curious about the big questions. Various events in our lives may cause us to begin to question certain aspects of our lives.
Exigence, exigency, and necessity are all terms used to describe a situation in which something essential or desirable is required or desired.
Many people have expressed concern about the construct's conceptual refinement, despite the growing interest in finding meaning in life.
Purpose is defined as having a clear sense of core goals, objectives, and life direction, whereas coherence is defined as the ability to understand and make sense of one's life. Both are primarily required to have a sense of purpose in life that confronts society's threats and conflicts.