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How to find meaning in life and why it matters more than pleasure

meaning in life

Years ago, I attended a personal growth seminar called Landmark. After two days of intense training, the meeting wrapped up with the proclamation that there’s no meaning in life.

None of it matters, the facilitator proclaimed, and I knew he was wrong. The idea that nothing in life carries any meaning stood contrary to everything I believed.

Later on, I read a book by Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, which strengthened my belief that meaning in life is, in fact, our primary source of happiness.

Pursuing pleasure does not make you happy. Finding meaning does. Click To Tweet

Contrary to what you’d expect, pursuing pleasure does not make you happy. Finding meaning does.

That’s why so many people who achieve happiness goals are shocked to discover they feel empty and unfulfilled.

As Frankl demonstrated in his book, finding meaning in life can keep you alive in dire circumstances.

When others give up, your decision to find meaning in your suffering will enhance your will to survive.

When other outlets aren't available, suffering becomes an opportunity to grow. Click To Tweet

Ideally, we’ll find meaning in life through the pursuit of goals or expressing ourselves creatively. But, when those outlets aren’t available, suffering becomes an opportunity to grow.

“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

Victor Emil Frankl

Without meaning, people fill their God-shaped hole with the pursuit of pleasure. They wrongly believe this will make them happy.

But how could pursuing happiness not make you happy? Because we’re not wired to feel fulfilled by pleasure without meaning.

That’s why addictions happen. Think about alcohol and drug dependence, pornography, or anything else people use to make themselves feel better.

Why meaning in life promotes long-term happiness

Often, we pursue pleasure to distract us from our suffering. Drinking too much wine and other coping mechanisms will numb you from pain in the short term.

But that pain is a sign something needs to change in your life. Therefore, those so-called pleasures prevent you from doing the work to make your life better.

When you medicate symptoms instead of looking for a cure, you prevent your life from improving. Click To Tweet

In the long term this decreases your happiness. When you medicate symptoms instead of looking for a cure, you prevent your life from improving.

Valuing meaning in life tends to correlate with a future filled with more health and happiness than the present.

Research shows people who have meaning in life and believe it matters do better in these five ways:

1. lower risk of divorce and living alone

2. increased social and cultural connections

3. lower rates of chronic illness and depression

4. less obesity and more physical activity

5. healthier eating and exercise habits

So, how do we find meaning in life? Here are five ideas that come to mind, but there are many more:

1. Thinking about and serving others.

2. Leading a healthy lifestyle with good diet and exercise.

3. Positive social connections.

4. Gratitude.

5. Dreaming about a brighter future (and taking steps to make it happen).

Divorce recovery: how to rebuild your life in healthy ways

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Some people compare the pain of divorce to the pain of losing a loved one through death.

It’s one of the most traumatic life events a person can go through.

Though the trauma of divorce seems insurmountable, it offers an opportunity to grow.

Here are 4 phases you will likely experience on your divorce recovery journey. And how to traverse them in healthy ways.

1. Emotional instability

Whether or not you initiated the divorce, you will experience extreme emotional instability.

Immediately after divorce your focus should be on stabilizing your emotions and finding support to help you through.

Immediately after divorce your focus should be on stabilizing your emotions and finding support. Click To Tweet

Seek support groups like Divorce Care, take time off work if you need to, and focus on self care.

People you assumed would support you may not. This is incredibly hurtful and shocking, but you must protect yourself.

This may mean creating distance or even saying goodbye to some relationships. If you are lucky enough to have supporters, be clear with them on what you need.

Decluttering will help you gain control and eliminate some bad feelings. Get rid of things that remind you of him or that represent the compromises you made.

Resist the urge to bash your ex. You might gain sympathy but it’s no way to gain respect from yourself or others.

Resist the urge to bash your ex. You might gain sympathy but it's no way to gain respect from yourself or others. Click To Tweet

Have the integrity to let others think what they will. That includes your children. Even if you have to bite your tongue clear off, do not disparage their father in front of them.

Try not to get caught up in how he’s raising the children when you’re not there (as long as they’re safe).

Instead, make the most of the time you have with them. Release the desire to control what happens when they’re with their father.

2. Healing

After your emotions are under control, you can begin to look at what didn’t work so you don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Try not to blame everything on your ex-spouse. Remember, you had a part to play, too. Have the courage to own up to that and bring it to the Lord in repentance.

This sets you free, while blame and martyr syndrome keep you in chains and stop you from moving forward.

Forgive your ex-spouse even when it’s hard. This has the added benefit of setting an excellent example for the children. It also makes it easier to speak about their father in positive ways.

Ask yourself why you chose your spouse. I picked someone who ignored my emotional needs the same why my family had. Being treated like I didn’t matter felt like home to me.

After healing from the wounds of emotional neglect, the skin condition I’d been dealing with for years went away.

Figure out your likes and dislikes that you might have ignored while married. Have a love affair with yourself before looking for a new partner.

3. Putting yourself out there after divorce

Are you ready to begin dating again? Or perhaps you want to keep dating yourself and do some solo travel.

This phase is a learning process. As such, you should be on the look out for red flags when meeting potential partners.

divorce

You have learned from self-examination after divorce in phase 2. But you’re still vulnerable and need to protect yourself with effective boundaries.

Be realistic and guard your heart. Online dating, especially, comes with an escalating number of predators.

Be realistic and guard your heart. Online dating, especially, comes with an escalating number of predators. Click To Tweet

Do your research on the person including a Google search. Get evidence they are who they say they are. Know your deal breakers and don’t compromise to keep the person.

View dating as a weeding out process and let them weed themselves out! Do not change to please someone but keep your standards. Let them go if they don’t or won’t meet them.

4. Renewed confidence

This is the stage after divorce where you feel like yourself again. You have solid boundaries and know how to protect them.

You stand up for yourself and seek things that fulfill you rather than what pleases others. You’ve left people pleasing behind.

You have confidence that God has an amazing future in store for you. You’ve taken the steps to live an intentional life.

That means you create your reality rather than reacting to what others want from you. You are submitted to God rather than other people.

This ensures you are living in integrity, making the most of your gifts, and enjoying life to the fullest.

How to overcome winter blues through self care and kindness

winter blues, self care

The days are getting colder and shorter where I live. Winter is approaching and with it come the dreaded winter blues.

Even if you live in a warm climate, your hours of sunlight decrease. That lack of sunlight is one of the key culprits causing low moods during winter.

If you’re wondering, some of the symptoms of winter blues include:

  1. Poor sleep patterns
  2. Feeling less social
  3. Feeling lethargic

Winter blues are different than seasonal affective disorder which is more serious and less common (and not covered here).

They affect women more than men and, perhaps obviously, are more common in colder climates.

Some say pressure and loneliness around Christmas increases the tendency toward winter blues. This year, that loneliness will only be exacerbated.

So, now we know why we suffer winter blues. What can we do about it?

How to Properly Beat the Winter Blues

Here are 8 ways to manage your winter blues this year:

1. Get more sunlight

Going outside for a walk or engaging in winter sports will expose you to more natural light.

The sun still shines in winter, only less so. Taking it in will increase your serotonin production and elevate your mood.

2. Light therapy

Some people use a lightbox which simulates natural light. You look at it for a certain amount of time each day and it gives you the benefits of a dose of sunlight.

3. Exercise

Like the sun, physical activity increases serotonin and also boosts endorphins, for a double dose of mood lifting.

Moderate exercise of 30 minutes per day is more than enough to reap benefits from these mood enhancers.

15 GIFs of Adorable Animals Enjoying the Snow to Help Chase Away Your Winter  Blues

4. Embrace routine

Keep a regular schedule to avoid winter blues. That means going to bed and waking at about the same time each day.

Prepare healthy foods and eat your meals at around the same time each day. Do your best not to overindulge in comfort foods like starchy and sugary choices.

5. Stay connected

Maintain your social connections, even when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes you need to do the opposite of what you feel like doing.

This past weekend I forced myself to call a friend to share my low feelings. It had a tremendous impact on my mood and made me feel less alone.

6. Think of others

Thinking of ourselves too much is a sure way to extend a low mood. Ruminating over negative thoughts makes it difficult to escape the winter blues.

Turn your attention outward instead. Help others, whether it’s through a donation, delivering food to someone in need, or listening to a friend.

7. Listen to uplifting music

To enhance your mood, tune in to radio stations that play positive music.

Or create playlists of encouraging songs that remind you you’re loved and not alone.

8. Stay cozy

Issue 01: It's not just the winter blues

Consider keeping a couple of soft blankets on the couch. Whoever sits there will enjoy the warmth and feel of a cozy covering.

If you’re lucky enough to have the warmth of a fireplace, light it up. Wear comfy clothes.

Be kind to yourself as you navigate the winter blues and remember: they’re totally natural, normal, and, most important, temporary.

Romance scammers more common than you think: How to protect yourself

romance scammers
Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Women make up 82% of victims of romance scammers. In spite of this fact, the media is saturated with stories about female grifters who dupe both men and women.

This is a curious bias and hugely misleading reporting. It gives women the false sense that men are no worse than women in this area.

This puts women at risk of being victimized. Another popular false belief is that only gullible women fall for these traps.

Instead, these women tend to be intelligent, highly educated, and successful in their fields of work.

Victims of romance scammers tend to be intelligent, educated, and successful in their fields of work. Click To Tweet

Women who fall for romance scammers are not stupid or naïve. They are trustworthy and community oriented. In other words, good people who expect the same in others.

How do romance scammers operate?

It starts with “love bombing”, a common tactic among narcissists. That intense attention and affection that moves things too fast and prompts you to let down your guard.

They also pretend to like and dislike the same things you do. To build a false sense in you of having found the perfect partner.

Anyone can Google your name or read your Facebook profile to find out all kinds of things about you. This is material they use to give you the false sense of feeling “known”.

Scammers will isolate you and seek out victims who are already lacking support. If you have suffered a recent trauma like divorce you are far more likely to fall for one.

How to avoid romance scammers

Here are 4 ways to protect yourself from falling for a romantic grifter:

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1. Don’t commit too fast.

Spend time with someone before becoming over involved with them or giving your heart away.

In the Dirty John podcast, his victim let him move in after only five weeks and married him shortly after.

2. Listen to what others say about him.

And not only the positive comments. Romance scammers are experts at conning people.

But listen to the one who points out his cracks. Or says she can’t put her finger on why she doesn’t trust him.

Women’s intuition is real and the woman who trusts hers is a gifted advisor. Pay attention to what she says.

Women's intuition is real and the woman who trusts hers is a gifted advisor. Click To Tweet

3. Trust your own intuition.

Most women have spent their lives downplaying their God-given intuition. This is because we live in a world that downgrades feminine attributes and elevates cold logic instead.

Listen to that voice inside you and heed those red flags. They will always be there to mark the way to safety.

Avoid online romance scams this Valentine's Day | Buzz

4. If he seems too good to be true, he is.

He claims to have a high-flying job but needs to borrow money. That’s a huge red flag and a common theme among romance scammers.

He has all the same interests as you and supports all the causes you do. Anyone could find those details on your Facebook profile.

Romance scammers use clichés women love to hear but most normal men never say! Click To Tweet

He uses clichés that women love to hear but most normal men never say! Like, “I can’t take my eyes off you,” or “you’re the most amazing woman I’ve ever met.”

Be suspicious when he says these things very early on, like a first date. Pretending to fall for you immediately is the biggest romance scam of all.

Acedia: How to overcome feelings of boredom and restlessness

acedia, self care, self improvement
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Acedia refers to a combination of listlessness, generalized anxiety, and an inability to concentrate. It first described feelings brought on by the solitary lives of ancient monks.

Unsurprisingly, this feeling of acedia in the monks came about as a result of long stints in isolation. Sound familiar?

Some of us today are experiencing acedia for the first time. A consequence of imposed isolation and confinement to our own four walls.

A brain fog sets in, a feeling of restlessness that you can’t shake. You’re still functioning but feel like there must be more.

How do we deal with this restlessness that is neither depression or anxiety? Click To Tweet

How do we deal with this restlessness that is neither depression or anxiety, and is therefore neither treatable nor truly dysfunctional?

The feeling of acedia is uncomfortable rather than unbearable. And it grows worse in times when a lack of routine compels us to distract ourselves or procrastinate.

Here are four ways to overcome acedia when it strikes in our lives:

1. Endurance

In Hebrews Paul says, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Do your work with 100% effort even when it’s tedious and seemingly meaningless.

Avoid procrastination and unhelpful distractions like scrolling through social media. Practice gratitude rather than wishing you were somewhere else or with someone else.

2. Prayer

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says “pray without ceasing”. When you’re going through the ordinary tasks of your day, whisper prayers to God to keep in constant contact with Him.

3. Crying

Sometimes all we need is a good cry. If you live alone you may have gone weeks or even months without touch this year.

I’d say that’s worth a few tears! And you’re not alone. Celebrities have taken to YouTube with their own crying jags during isolation.

4. Physical activity

This can mean simply moving your body rather than an exercise regime. Go for a walk, clean the house, do laundry.

Completing physical tasks big and small can help you process your jumbled thoughts. At the very least it can help you get out of your head for a while and into your body instead.