Happiness and Meaning in Life

Viennese Viktor Frankl was sent to a concentration camp with some family members and he wrote about this ordeal in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” While imprisoned he discovered that others who had meaning in life were more apt to survive.  Frankl stated the Nazis could not take away one’s attitude, outlook on life.  He met several men who gave up and were waiting to die. Frankl delved into their lives and found out what was important to them, waiting on the outside.  For one it was a family member safely tucked away from harm, and the other had a special project that was left unfinished.  These two men then became determined to live.  The Center for Disease Control said that 4 out of 10 Americans  have not discovered their meaning in life and that negatively affects their health.

What is the difference between just having happiness or having meaning/purpose in life?  You are happy because you have money to buy expensive gadgets and goods.  If something took those away, then happiness fades.  Having meaning in life is more lasting, not the here and now of happiness without a purpose.  Meaning in life is more enduring, things may not be great now, but you are reaching out to others and enlarging your supportive social network. Frankl stated that the more one is focused outside of yourself  – reaching out to others – the more human you are. Most people that I interviewed, claimed that they got more out of volunteering, than the recipients did.

Since happiness is a more transient feeling there are ways to boost its level every day.  Spend your money on having experiences, rather than on more material goods.  Think about travel for example.  You open your eyes and mind to new cultures, sights and ideas which in turn can be life changing.  You can bond with your kids and have forever memories.

Make a list of what you enjoy doing and gives you pleasure.  Then schedule these on a weekly basis in your calendar.  It may be going out for lattes or margaritas with the girls or perhaps a stroll around a museum.  Pick some free activities, such as a picnic or hike in a leafy area.  Just thinking about what you were happy about that day can give you a more positive outlook in life.