Evidence That It Works
In a study, college students were instructed to take 9-12 photographs of things that they felt made their life meaningful; one week later, they viewed and wrote about each photograph. They completed a battery of questionnaires before and after this exercise. Afterward, they reported feeling like they had more meaning in their lives, greater life satisfaction, and more positive emotion than they had before the activity.
Why Does It Matter?
Research suggests that finding greater meaning in life helps people cope with stress and improves their overall health and well-being—it’s what makes life feel worth living. Indeed, a study of almost 2,000 Romanian adolescents found that having a sense of meaning in life both increases psychological well-being and protects teens from risky behavior, such as drug and alcohol use, sexual activity, and unhealthy exercise and eating habits.
However, finding meaning in life can sometimes feel like an elusive task, especially to adolescents and emerging adults. Yet research suggests that there are potential sources of meaning all around us, from the moments of connection we share with others, to the beauty of nature, to the work that we do, and the things we create.
When young people identify things that give them meaning, they may be inspired to pursue important personal goals. Meaning can also give them a sense of strength and purpose when coping with stressful life events. And sharing what makes their lives meaningful with their peers can help to foster positive peer relationships based on trust and mutual understanding.