What is the meaning of life after

The sense of life

Psychology has concrete answers to the question of what the "meaning of life" actually is.

The Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was of the opinion that only those who have a meaning in life can be happy. The meaning researcher Tatjana Schnell cannot confirm that. As a psychologist at the University of Innsbruck, she has found enough people who are not unhappy even without a meaning in life.

Does meaning mean happiness?

If you ask people whether they see meaning in their life, they answer very differently, explains the psychologist and empirical researcher of meaning, Tatjana Schnell. Either they see meaning in their life or they don't. But if you don't have one, you're not automatically unhappy. These people would feel that they have little influence on their lives, but they are not desperate about it. Unlike those who are stuck in a crisis of meaning. Such a crisis could lead to depression and anxiety, Schnell said.

It is also important that the meaning of life cannot be equated with happiness. “Fulfilling meaning does not mean that we get up every morning and rejoice at how full of meaning our life is. It is more like a foundation that you usually only notice when it starts to shake, ”explains the psychologist. “In several studies, we see that people who say that happiness is not that important to them report much more happiness. They are more concerned with living and acting as they are for correct hold."

What is a meaningful life?

The researcher Tatjana Schnell and her colleagues have summarized 26 possible sources of meaning based on study results. Some of them are more meaningful than others. "What we can report as the core result is that we should not only concentrate on one thing, but that we need several sources of meaning in order to have a certain balance."

Particularly meaningful are things that “transcend oneself”, that is, do not revolve directly around oneself, but around something bigger. It can be about religion or spirituality, but that is quite rare in our societies, according to the psychologist. It could also be about social commitment, closeness to nature or so-called generativity. That means that you pass something on to society. For example through children, art, political engagement or neighborhood help.

Youth without meaning

And what do you do when you suffer from having no meaning in life? "When you are stuck in a crisis of meaning, it is important to find out what is actually important for you personally," explains Schnell. Parents can help their children with this. “Today we forgot to ask what is important to us. Also because the schools are primarily only imparting knowledge and offer no space for exploration. "

To find out what is important to you, you have to pause. But that is precisely what is difficult in our fast-paced society, so Schnell. “That's why many people say that when they have gone through a crisis, such as a cancer diagnosis, they are happy that it happened because it gave them the justification to stop and think,” says the psychologist.

The figures also show that we don't take enough time to look inside ourselves: “For ten to fifteen years, more and more people have been reporting a crisis of meaning,” says Tatjana Schnell. She sees schools as responsible here, especially to give the younger ones a hand. “Before Corona, one in four of the 16 to 29 year olds reported terrifyingly about a crisis of meaning. With the pandemic, the numbers have apparently increased again, as our data shows. "


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