Wow, that is a difficult question!
But it a topic I have been mulling over. Below is what I wrote in January when I started this aging well blog.
|Find More Meaning
|Treating others well, with kindness, generosity, and caring. Contributing to something bigger than myself. Challenge myself to stretch beyond my current capabilities. Go beyond the status quo.
The COVID pandemic and the passing of Dad and my father-in-law really put a lot of things in perspective for me. I know many of you have lost family and I would like to know if it made you stop and reflect upon, what is important to you?
Lately I have been asking myself if I am contributing enough in my little corner of the world. ‘A’ says I over think things and I probably do, 😉. He tells me to go back to last month’s blog of ‘living in the moment and appreciate your time now.
I guess I should take my own advice!
So, how do you bring more meaning into your life? Feel more alive?
Brendon Buchard, a life coach, considers 3 factors for your growth as a person:
- Meaningful Pursuits
Do you have strong connections to family or friends, community, etc.?
Your connections to family, friends and community matter. It provides you with support and it brings you closer to those around you to feel that you are a part of something bigger than yourself. You feel connected and loved, which is very important for your overall health.
Have you found meaning pursuits?
This can be work related. Or a hobby. Or something really personal such as raising your children, caring for aging parents, or helping with a cause you believe in.
For me, my work either teaching at the University or consulting in the newcomer settlement sector can be satisfying, but lately I have been looking for something more. Not sure, what that is yet, but I will let you know as the year unfolds.
What brings You Alive?
It could be something where time falls away and you would do it, even if no one paid you.
Or an activity that you are great at, enjoy doing, and people often compliment you on this skill. Another aspect is feeling good in your environment such as leisure or recreational activities
For example, ‘A’ and I recently went out canoeing on the Red Deer River. The weather was marvelous with sunny skies and no wind. The river was flowing at a medium to high levels and there were no bugs. Yah! We saw beavers and a variety of birds in the beautiful and mystical surroundings of the badlands. We camped for 3 nights on the river bank with no one around but us. There is nothing like having your morning coffee viewing the river and listening to the bird songs.
It felt good to be alive.
What Can You Do to Find More Meaning in Your Life?
Fill up your life with things that make you happy.
According to the research, positive emotions may have a big influence on how full and meaningful our life feels. For example, in a series of studies, King and colleagues (2006) showed that boosting people’s positive emotions resulted in subsequent increases in their sense of meaning in life. More specifically, it seems that positive emotions experienced in a given day contribute to a greater sense of meaning that day.
In fact, prioritizing positive activities has been shown in other research to be linked with greater life satisfaction, more positive emotions, and fewer negative emotions (Catalino, Algoe, & Fredrickson, 2014). So, living life to the fullest may simply involve engaging in activities that you enjoy.
To implement this strategy in your life, the researchers suggest to try to find time in your calendar for things like sports, nature activities, spending time with friends, playing games, engaging in arts and crafts, reading, relaxing, and doing other activities you find enjoyable.
Contribute to something bigger than yourself
If we want to create lives of meaning, we also need to think about meaningful situations that we can create. Here are some examples:
- Volunteering for a cause we care about
- Helping someone with something
- Taking care of children or pets
- Going to a place the provokes a sense of awe
- Starting a new project
- Overcoming a fear or challenge
- Showing courage
- Expressing your true self
- Practicing random acts of kindness
Other ideas include:
- Learning something you’ve always wanted to learn
- Creating something of value to you or others
- Giving back by volunteering or donating.
Another way to cultivate more meaning is by being creative, perhaps through art, music, writing, making videos, or starting your own business. It can feel meaningful when we create something from scratch, perhaps something that will still be available for future generations.
Understand What Your Values Are
As quoted by Gretchen Rubin (Happiness Project), “I’ve learned that we sometimes go through life without paying much attention. We just move from one thing to the next without considering whether our actions reflect our core values. But when we go through life without following our values, we can lose ourselves and our ability to generate real happiness.”
When she first started understanding and living her values, Gretchen discovered that kindness was one of her top values. I also value kindness, but it is something you have to work at in difficult situations, especially when you are angry.
Gretchen comments, “I was living this value in some ways, with some people, and in some situations, but I had some major gaps. For one, I could be really mean to my husband, criticizing him for the smallest things. I could tell you I acted this way because I was angry or hurt, but these are just rationalizations–excuses that I told myself to justify my behavior. The truth is that living your values is hard, and I wasn’t yet ready to put in the work.”
From reading her comments, I think it is good idea to understand what your values are and if you are living in alignment with your values.
For example, you may say you value freedom, but then take a job that pays well with the expectation that you put in 80 hours a week. In this instance, you value money more. This is not a judgement, but it is learning about whether or not your actions are in alignment with what you say you value. When you are out of alignment your true self does not shine as brightly.
My Experiment for Finding More Meaning in July
For this month’s experiment I am going to focus on the 3 categories, Brendon Buchard mentioned.
If I was to summarize this blog, I derive meaning from contributing to society in some way, giving back by using my skills and experience, and enjoying life. But let’s see, I could uncover more information with my experiment this month. Stay tuned.
Live well and enjoy life,
 Rubin Gretchen, 2012, The Happiness Project