The past few years have been marked by two major trends in the science of a meaningful life.
One is that researchers continued to add sophistication and depth to our understanding of positive feelings and behaviors. Happiness is good for you, but not all the time; empathy ties us together, and can overwhelm you; humans are born with an innate sense of fairness and morality, that changes in response to context. This has been especially true of the study of mindfulness and attention, which is producing more and more potentially life-changing discoveries.
The other factor involves intellectual diversity. The turn from the study of human dysfunction to human strengths and virtues may have started in psychology, with the positive psychology movement, but that perspective spread to adjacent disciplines like neuroscience and criminology, and from there to fields like sociology, economics and medicine. Across all these fields, we’re seeing more and more support for the idea that empathy, compassion, and happiness are more than you-have-it-or-not capacities, but skills that can be cultivated by individuals and by groups of people through deliberate decisions.
Below, find five scientific insights on how to create a happier, more meaningful life. Then head over to the Greater Good Science Center to see five more.