169. There’s More to Life Than Being Happy

By Emily Esfahani Smith

“It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”

In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents. Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished — but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived. In his bestselling 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life.

As he saw in the camps, those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,” Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. On top of that, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is ironically leaving people less happy, according to recent research. “It is the very pursuit of happiness,” Frankl knew, “that thwarts happiness.”

About Patrick Day

triumphoverdepression.org This blog is my ministry to support those who are depressed, in gratefulness for my having overcome major depression. Read "About Patrick Day" just to the right of "home" on the top of the blog site to find out more particulars about me. I retired from a career in higher education, where I served as Dean of Instruction, and promptly moved into a life of purposelessness and despair for five years, finally coming out on the other side. I am now an author, a business and life coach, a writer of this blog, and a volunteer for various organizations. What I write about in this blog is not hypothetical comments on depression. I have been there, felt the horrible pain, had my life disrupted, and experienced everything that I write about. I pray that I may be a blessing to you.
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One Response to 169. There’s More to Life Than Being Happy

  1. Robert Farquhar says:

    What a basic, fundamental idea! So true; right-on!

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