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Finding the Keys to Meaningful Happiness: Beyond Being Happy or Sad is to Love

  • Thomas William NielsenEmail author

Abstract

There is a stark disconnect between what most of us think will make us happier and what research shows will actually make us happier. Most of us believe that material or monetary increases will improve our happiness the most (Dunn et al. 2008), whereas a growing body of research shows that the deepest and most stable levels of happiness come from having meaning in our lives (Veenhoven 2012; Post 2011; Post and Neimark 2007; Seligman 2002). But what exactly does it mean to have meaning in our lives? This existential question is examined through the lenses of, in particular, positive psychology research and philosophical induction. It is proposed that individual meaning-making might not be so subjective an exercise as existentialism generally would suggest. Multidisciplinary research evidence is used to argue that the major religions might have been right all along with regard to one core message at least: that the meaning of life is to love one another. Defining love, in its essence, as an expression of giving, generosity, and altruism, it is also suggested that situating altruism and generous behavior in an evidence-based theory and practice, rather than solely in ideology and religion, is urgently needed to build bridges between competing agendas, ideologies, and religions. As such, a philosophy and pedagogy of giving, or love, could shed more light on not only the links between positive psychology and existentialism, but also between fanatic and fundamentalist views and practices, still so present in our world today.

Keywords

Positive psychology Existentialism Happiness Wellbeing Altruism Love Giving 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Drs. Anthony Shaddock, Phillip Payne, and Mary-Faeth Chenery for insightful comments in the process of writing this chapter. A special thank you goes to Jennifer Ma for editing and preparing the manuscript so carefully and attentively.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Education, Science Technology and MathematicsUniversity of CanberraCanberraAustralia

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