It Seems Like A Mighty Long Time

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. There are many reasons for that; I have felt like I was struggling and I was waiting for that feeling to diminish. Also, I don’t know about you, but with COVID, I was really having a hard time focusing. I found it hard to read, I found it challenging to complete a post, let alone a task. Mind you, I didn’t seem to struggle at all with spending a year and a half, isolated, sitting on my sofa watching NETFLIX. Go figure!

So here I am, better than worse. For my return, I thought I would share some writing that a wonderful , beautiful and dear friend shared with me. It is acting as my kickstart.

Things were especially difficult for me for a while and I struggled to find a feeling of worth. I felt that happiness relied on structure and routine as well as a sense of purpose and meaning. I maintain those are important pursuits, but for me, what often helps, is a slight change in perspective. I liked this article because it challenged me to think about what happiness is for me. I wonder what you think?

A ‘Good’ Life Doesn’t Necessarily Have to Be Happy, New Psychology Research Shows

DAVID NIELD

What makes a ‘good’ life? And how do we measure it? These are questions as old as humanity itself – with many potential answers – but a new study places the emphasis on living in a way that’s ‘psychologically rich’.

That richness is defined by experiences that are out of the ordinary, varied, complex and – perhaps most importantly – cause a shift in perspective for the person going through them, according to social psychologists Shige Oishi from the University of Virginia, and Erin Westgate from the University of Florida.

Their new study finds that to some people, a psychologically rich life is more important than being happy or finding a sense of meaning – the two main areas that current psychological research tends to be concerned with when it comes to evaluating a ‘good’ life.

“Unlike happy or meaningful lives, psychologically rich lives are best characterized by a variety of interesting and perspective-changing experiences,” write the researchers in their published paper.

“We present empirical evidence that happiness, meaning, and psychological richness are related but distinct and desirable aspects of a good life, with unique causes and correlates.”

The researchers aren’t saying that psychological richness operates completely independently from happiness or meaningfulness, but that it’s a part of our wellbeing that needs more attention.

Having a happy life involves goals such as positive feelings and overall satisfaction, while finding meaning in life is associated with realizing our potential and maximizing our talents, reaching goals and making a difference.

In three surveys covering 1,336 college students, Oishi and Westgate found that psychological richness could be separated from happiness and meaning when it came to people assessing their own lives and well-being.

“Unlike happiness, our conception of richness allows for moments of discomfort and unpleasant emotion,” they write.

Further analysis of previous studies on psychological richness, language used in obituaries, and earlier surveys run across different countries, all back up the importance of this third type of having a good life. The research also suggests it goes beyond societies that are wealthy, educated, and democratic.

In terms of people picking a psychologically rich life above a happy or meaningful one, this distinction was most popular in Germany (16.8 percent of respondents), India (16.1 percent), Korea (15.8 percent) and Japan (15.5 percent), according to a previous study in which a total of 3,728 people were surveyed across nine countries. 

“We show that a non-trivial number of people around the world report they would choose a psychologically rich life at the expense of a happy or meaningful life, and that approximately a third say that undoing their life’s biggest regret would have made their lives psychologically richer,” write Oishi and Westgate.

The pair notes that moving abroad, changing careers, or being immersed in challenging art – James Joyce’s novel Ulysses gets a particular mention – are three examples of the sort of psychological richness that people are looking for.

Curiously, they note that research on this subject “suggests that a good life may not always be pleasant, and that there is value in leading lives that investigate different perspectives.” 

At the same time, the researchers also acknowledge that there may be other factors to consider beyond these three main aspects: such as learning, being creative, or caring for others, for instance.

Beyond the pursuits of a happy (hedonic) life and a meaningful (eudaimonic) life – ideas put forward by Aristotle – the psychologically rich life could offer another way of assessing whether we’re making the most of our days, and working out ways that we might want to change our lives for the better.

“Together, this work moves us beyond the dichotomy of hedonic versus eudaimonic well-being, and lays the foundation for the study of psychological richness as another dimension of a good life,” write the researchers.

The research has been published in Psychological Review.

22 thoughts on “It Seems Like A Mighty Long Time

  1. It’s very good to see you, Harlon! Thank you very much for sharing these ideas which I look forward to pondering and applying for the rest of my life. I wish you a healthy combination of happiness, meaning, and psychological richness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear JoAnna, I always smile when I see your name and reflect on your journey. I am so glad that you found something meaningful to this post and in particular exploring the idea of psychological richness without making it mutually exclusive from purpose and meaning. I think it really is about accepting the parts of ourselves that might not feel like the quite fit in, and loving ourselves and being genuine to ourselves and to others. I miss you and hope you are staying well. xo H

      Liked by 1 person

      • Accepting the parts of ourselves that might not feel like they fit in – that’s a good reminder. We all have a lot in common, but we each have our unique strengths, talents, and visions. I love your vision. I am grateful to be staying well for the most part. I hope you are, too and that you’ve been able to enjoy nature and other gifts of life. I have missed you, too and glad you’re here.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My dear neighbour Huguette and I often talk of “living rich lives” not realizing we were talking of psychologically rich lives and yes, there have been challenges and real discomfort…thank you for sharing this, it’s given me some “food for thought” and I’m also glad to see you pop up on my feed! My COVID 19 month sojourn has resulted in monthly posts (if I’m inspired), reading, organizing and decluttering as well as lots of heavenly wanders!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind message, I continue to be amazed how we are able to transcend distance, while creating connections. COVID has been tough, in different ways of different things. I am glad you enjoyed this “food for thought” and may you continue to be inspired, as need, and decluttering, organizing and perhaps expanding your horizons. Much love, Harlon

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s great to see you back, Harlon!

    I’m so sorry for what you’ve been feeling and how much you’ve struggled. Like you, I find structure and routine (particularly since I got sick and live with pain) important, alongside that sense of purpose and meaning. If we rely on these things and any of them starts to slip and slide, we get discombobulated and start feeling hollow, so I’m not surprised you couldn’t focus to write.

    The study is pretty thought-provoking, especially separating happy, meaningful and psychological rich lives. A “good life” is so subjective. So the crux for a rich life is that it can encompass bad experiences and discomfort, as it’s part and parcel of shaping multiple perspectives and developing the richness. “…whether we’re making the most of our days, and working out ways that we might want to change our lives for the better”. Sounds like a proactive way of looking at it, too. I’ll bookmark the Psychology Review page to investigate further. My psych degree went to waste but I still find this stuff super interesting so thank you for sharing it.

    I don’t feel I have anything useful to say as I’m not in the best place myself today and it’s feeling very rocky, so I feel a bit useless. I’m sorry. I just wanted to let you know that I’m glad you’re back and that you have a place here. You have meaning here, you’re appreciated here.

    Please go easy on yourself. 🤗
    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Caz for a very thoughtful and genuine response. I really appreciate the reminder that I have a meaning and place here.
      Sometimes, I think our nature is to make things complicated, so a fresh approach – that of psychological richness sat nicely with ne,
      I appreciate these moments of sharing – it really does mean the world to me. xxHarlon

      Liked by 1 person

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