• Happiness or Meaningfulness: Pick One

    11/27 2012

    Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker.

    That’s one of the takeaways in Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life, a paper by Roy Baumeister, author of Willpower and one of my favorite social psychologists.

    Satisfying one’s needs and wants increased happiness but was largely irrelevant to meaningfulness…. Higher levels of worry, stress, and anxiety were linked to higher meaningfulness but lower happiness. Concerns with personal identity and expressing the self-contributed to meaning but not happiness.

    So apparently I live a very meaningful life.

  • I’m so bored. But why?

    09/28 2012

    For five consecutive weeks, my husband is away working. He’s back Saturday and Sunday morning, but in general I have to make do with these two:
















    Lately, in the absence of our usual routine, I’ve been feeling a little bored.

    On Wednesday, researchers from York University published a paper in Perspectives on Psychological Science that uncovers the nature of boredom. And found that we get bored in the following circumstances:

    • We have difficulty paying attention to the internal information (e.g., thoughts or feelings) or external information (e.g., environmental stimuli) required for participating in satisfying activity
    • We’re aware of the fact that we’re having difficulty paying attention
    • We believe that the environment is responsible for our aversive state (e.g., “this task is boring,” “there is nothing to do”).

    In other words, being bored is really a problem with attention. We can’t focus for long enough to reach a “flow state,” when the challenge we’re faced with is a fit for our abilities and skills.


    Examined from this end, boredom is at the opposite end of anxiety. When we’re anxious, we’re overwhelmed because the task demands too much from us.

    Being bored is like being underwhelmed. But we can also become bored if we’re overwhelmed, simply by shutting out everything and saying that there’s nothing to do.

    We can also blame our environment for not making the next step obvious. Or we can blame our dogs for not talking to us, even though that inability to talk back is one of the reasons we love them so much in the first place.

    Let’s face it: there’s always something to do. And if you break it down just right and pay attention, you’ll find that it’s not boring.

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