What does ‘Meaning’ mean to you?

When we talk about meaning in life, how do you make sense of that for yourself in your life? Often, meaning in life is defined as a sense of having a purpose or investing time and energy into the achievement of your goals. For some, meaning is attained by attaching to a larger framework of meaning such as religion or a philosophy of life. In general, a life is meaningful when it is understood by the person living it to matter in some larger sense.

This month my focus has been on Meaning as a pathway to wellbeing, so take a few minutes to reflect as you read this today.

However we define it, empirical research has consistently demonstrated that perceiving life to be meaningful positively relates to wellbeing. Having or creating a sense of meaning in life is a pathway to enhancing your wellbeing.

What is also interesting is that experiencing more positive emotions may enhance the experience of life as meaningful. When we are in a more positive state, we are more likely to experience life as meaningful. Although hedonic pleasure gets a bad name, there is evidence to suggest that it can help us to find meaning, and this, in turn, supports our overall wellbeing. So one possible pathway to finding meaning is to enjoy life’s pleasures. Another is through eudaimonic wellbeing which is associated with engagement, functioning well, having a sense of purpose & fulfilment, more sustainable happiness. We need both; according to Seligman, authentic happiness is about feeling better (hedonic) and functioning better (eudaimonic).

The thing to consider here is that any moment can be meaningful. We can find meaning in all our everyday little moments, it is potentially a quality of everyday existence. Spending time with children, or with grandparents, being in nature, laughter, connecting with others, moments of kindness, someone reaching out to you when you’re struggling – these are all examples of moments where meaning can be found. Whether we judge our moments to be good or bad, we can always imbue it with meaning. It is up to each of us to find meaning in our own life. Doing so can make a big difference for your long-term wellbeing and happiness.

Take some time this week to consider – where do you find meaning in your life? Is this something that you could benefit from giving more focus to?

If you’d like to go to the source of some of the research quoted above, please read Positive affect and the experience of meaning in life.


Niamh Hannan