Tag Archives: happiness

In Pursuit of Meaning

Happiness—what it is and how to get more of it—has long fascinated this blog. The Pursuit of Happiness observed that “happiness is not a random event” and explored the notion that personal growth is the source of happiness.

“Personal growth can mean learning something new, mastering something difficult, acquiring new insight, or being moved to joy in some inexpressible way by a work of art or piece of music. It can mean developing physical strength, health or endurance. Personal growth may mean achieving a higher level of emotional or spiritual connection with another person or with the natural world.”

Personal growth is about change, how you perceive change in your life, and how you respond to it. Personal growth comes from experiencing life’s changes as positive and affirming.

Optimal Living looked into the idea of “successful aging”—the idea that success in aging means achieving maximum satisfaction and happiness. Optimal aging—or “optimal living”—might be a better objective, because we should not think ourselves unsuccessful if we fail to achieve maximum happiness. There is an underlying hopefulness about seeking an optimal life. Life is not pass or fail. The discovery of what is optimal for ourselves is ongoing and evolving. Some of the benchmarks for what is optimal are quality of life, feelings of satisfaction and happiness, balance, capability, control and purpose.

The Center for Spirituality & Healing at the University of Minnesota has suggested that our goal should be making a more meaningful life for ourselves. Life is “meaningful” according to the Center when you feel “engaged, connected to purpose, and able to connect your gifts and passions with your highest values.” Meaningfulness is a “component of happiness,” and the pursuit of meaning leads to contentment. We can cultivate a sense of meaning through attention to four themes that wrap around a meaningful life: belonging, purpose, transcendence and storytelling.

We cultivate a sense of belonging by forming and deepening relationships and by joining with others in a community.

We find purpose by becoming aware of our individual values, our distinctive passions and our unique abilities—our gifts—and by applying those values, passions and gifts “to bring knowledge, joy, ease, or safety to others.”

Transcendence is our sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves. Transcendent experiences may be found in nature, in creativity or in spirituality. Later, Comma described the experience of transcendence in an earlier post, The Pursuit of Awesomeness and another post, An Expression of Spirituality, explored the intersection of spirituality and transcendence.

Storytelling in the pursuit of meaning refers to the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves. Storytelling is how we talk to ourselves about the significant experiences that have occurred in our lives. We can change how we tell our story. We have the power to edit our story with the passing of time, to view the facts of our experiences in different, more positive ways, to reshape ourselves by the retelling of our past. Just as our perception of change affects our experience of personal growth, the narrative voice that we hear telling our story affects how meaningful we perceive our lives to be.

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Some other stuff for later,

  • 85
    The concept of “successful aging” haunts me of late. Maybe it is just that I have time to think about aging now that I have achieved retiree status. Maybe while I continue getting older and older I wonder whether I am getting as much out of life as I should.…
  • 64
    In the hour of my death, would I regret that my life had no meaning? Should that be a regret, after all? It seemed that some people—often those who offered sage advice about aging—advocated a search for meaning in one’s life. It was seemingly a noble cause. If you wanted…
  • 64
    I was a spiritual skeptic. I believed that compassion and kindness were good things, but I doubted that spirituality had anything to do with it. My sense of morality had its origins in my childhood experiences, the influence of my parents—who somehow managed to teach me right from wrong—and the…

What the hygge?

I can feel the pride of my Danish ancestors for bringing the concept of hygge to the world at a time when it is sorely needed. There is probably no single word in English that encompasses the meaning of hygge, but it can be described as a kind of coziness, conviviality and comfort that fills you with feelings of contentment. The word hygge is etymologically related to the English word “hug.”

My great-grandfather John (or “Jens”) emigrated from Denmark in 1872 and married an Indiana girl whose parents were Swiss, and eventually he fathered my maternal grandmother. My Danish roots, however, do not help me with the correct Danish pronunciation of hygge, a sound that defies English phonetic spelling. It goes something like “hue-guh.” Ask a Dane.

The pursuit of happiness may be an “unalienable right,” but I might settle for the pursuit of hygge. It is a huggy concept about finding pleasure in small, simple things, such as the comfort of warm woolen socks on a cold night. Atmosphere is everything.

Although hygge has seen a discouraging commercialization of late, it seems to me that what strikes your hygge chord is an intimately personal matter. What is hygge for me may not be hygge for you.

Hygge has its time and place. Maybe the best hygge is unexpected. Not every time and place can be made to conform to a hygge-ish ideal. Our world is full of hardships and suffering, injustices and difficult choices, controversies, annoyances and conflicts. It is hygge to turn off the nightly news, but that world does not go away.

Still, we do well to remember that it is the thunderstorm outside that magnifies the hygge moments in our personal refuge.

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Some other stuff for later,

  • 72
    The morning fog obscuring the branches Of the trees and Filtering the early morning sunlight. The far hillside, covered with majestic fir trees, Rendered to shadowy forms. The sky white with dawn evolves In minutes, cloud shapes appearing. Nearby branches reach out, Twigs teared by the night’s rain. The river…
  • 57
    I have been wondering about spirituality and whether having a spiritual life—the way one might have a social life or a love life—would be helpful in learning to live optimally. There are, according to a pair of experts, more a thousand “spiritual practices,” any one of which might put me…
  • 49
    Happiness—what it is and how to get more of it—has long fascinated this blog. The Pursuit of Happiness observed that “happiness is not a random event” and explored the notion that personal growth is the source of happiness. “Personal growth can mean learning something new, mastering something difficult, acquiring new…