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Take a moment and recall the classic story of Cinderella.


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Remember how she was cruelly mistreated by her stepsisters and their wicked mother? Do you recall how they made her slave away at the daily household chores? Remember how the dress she labored so hard over was torn to shreds in a fit of jealousy, and her hopes of going to the royal ball lay in tatters? Of course, you probably best remember the happy ending of the fairy tale: But is that the end of the story, or just the beginning? It is interesting to consider what happened to Cinderella next, after she was betrothed and took up residence in Charming Castle.

For people who believe that happiness is a matter of favorable circumstances, the story of Cinderella turns out to be a slam dunk. With a Hollywood-handsome husband, a royal title, all the riches she could want, and soldiers to guard her from the paparazzi, how could our belle of the ball not be happy? Did she find some meaningful pastime to keep her occupied on the palace grounds? Were her children spoiled brats? Did she harbor resentment about her upbringing, or try to get revenge on her stepsisters? Did she grow bored with royal balls and court intrigue, or did she organize a dance program for the poor kids in her kingdom?

Is a Happy Life Different from a Meaningful One?

Happiness, as we have said, is a process, not a destination. Life goes on, and even those great circumstances you achieve will not ensure you lasting happiness. For one thing, bad things can happen even to beautiful young princesses. Hardships are an inevitable part of life, and having psychological wealth does not mean there are never any risks or losses.

Of course there are.

Happiness is not the complete absence of tough times, because that would be unrealistic. But, as we shall see later in this chapter and later in this book, negative emotions have a place in psychological wealth, and subjective interpretation plays an important role in happiness. Two Principles of Psychological Wealth. Of course, goals are important, but happiness is more about the process than it is about where you end up.

We sometimes ask our students whether they would accept the following pact with a genie.

Meaningful life

After floating out of his lamp, he offers to give you everything you desire, and as soon as the wish comes into your head, without the typical three-wish limit. The smirking genie says that anything you want will instantly come to you. Just solid old-school wishing for gold, castles, travel, beauty, friends, sports talent, intelligence, musical talent, good-looking dates, fast cars, and the like is permitted. Of course, most students wave their hands wildly, signaling that of course they would accept this great offer. Undoubtedly they are thinking of school loans, good grades, summers in Paris, and body fat.

But — typically — as the class discussion proceeds, doubts begin to creep in. Maybe this all-wishes-granted deal, having everything and working for nothing, would become boring. A recent study by Steven Cole of the UCLA School of Medicine, and Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that people who reported more eudaimonic happiness had stronger immune system function than those who reported more hedonic happiness, suggesting that a life of meaning may be better for our health than a life seeking pleasure.

Is a Happy Life Different from a Meaningful One?

But happiness researcher Elizabeth Dunn thinks the distinction between eudaimonic and hedonic happiness is murky. Dunn has authored numerous studies showing that giving to others increases happiness, both in the moment, as measured by positive emotions alone, and in terms of overall life satisfaction. In a recently published paper, she and her colleagues surveyed data from several countries and found supporting evidence for this connection, including findings that showed subjects randomly assigned to buy items for charity reported higher levels of positive emotion—a measure of hedonic happiness—than participants assigned to buy the same items for themselves, even when the spending did not build or strengthen social ties.

Like Lyubomirsky, she insists that meaning and happiness go hand-in-hand. In addition, she argues that the measurements used to distinguish eudaimonic from hedonic happiness are too highly correlated to separate out in this way—statistically speaking, doing so can make your results unreliable. He compares it to taking a photo of siblings who look alike, removing everything that makes them resemble each other, and then still calling the photos representative of the siblings.

Baumeister, though, clearly believes it is useful to make distinctions between meaning and happiness—in part to encourage more people to seek meaningful pursuits in life whether or not doing so makes them feel happy. Still, he recognizes that the two are closely tied. Discover five ways giving is good for you. Read Meredith Maran's article on how activism and volunteering improves health and resilience. Explore how to find more meaningful work. How altruistic are you?

Take our quiz to measure how much you identify with your neighborhood, nation, and humanity. But one piece of warning: The structure created through society and culture provides humans with a sense of order. Through the structured society we are able to create a symbolic immortality which can take various forms, e. Culture's order reduces death anxiety as it allows the individual to live up to the societal standards and in living up to such ideals; one is given self-esteem which counterbalances the mortal anxiety.

Hope theory operationalizes meaningfulness as having more to do with self-control that leads to higher self-esteem. As one lives by societal standards of living, one exercises self-control and it is through this self-control that higher self-esteem is achieved. Meaning is found when one realizes that one is capable and able to effectively achieve their goals through successful management. Control is "a cognitive model whereby people strive to comprehend the contingencies in their lives so as to attain desired outcomes and avoid undesirable ones". Narrative psychology proposes that people construct life stories as a way to understand life events and impose meaning on life, thus connecting [via explanation] the individual to the event.

Furthermore, meaningfulness is actualized through positive functioning, satisfaction with life, the enjoyment of work, happiness, positive affect and hope.


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  8. Meaningfulness can also be translated into physical health and a generalized well-being. Social exclusion results in a perceived loss of meaningfulness in life. Furthermore, the four needs for meaning sense of purpose, efficacy, value and sense of positive self-worth were found to be mediators in the perception of meaningfulness of life.

    When an individual thinks themself to be socially excluded, one's sense of purpose, efficacy, value, and self-worth are all indirectly diminished.

    Recent systematic reviews addressing meaning in life found that higher meaning in life is associated to better physical health in general, [9] [10] lower distress among cancer patients, [11] and higher subjective well-being in China. A study found an association between the discovery of meaning and a lower rate of AIDS -related mortality.

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    When confronted with the stress of such a death those men, who were able to find meaning in the loss, were subject to less rapid declines in CD4 T cell levels. Furthermore, the subjects who went through cognitive processing in response to the bereavement were more likely to find meaning in the death of the close friend. Thus in experiencing a stressful life event if one is able to engage successfully in finding meaning there is a potential link to positive immunological benefits and health outcomes.

    A happy life and a meaningful life are strongly correlated attitudes. According to a research, living a meaningful life is one of the several enduring pathways to happiness.