In Defense of the Psychologically Rich Life

In Defense of the Psychologically Rich Life

via Scientific American by Scott Barry Kaufman

“I do not accept any absolute formulas for living. No preconceived code can see ahead to everything that can happen in a man’s life. As we live, we grow, and our beliefs change. They must change. So I think we should live with this constant discovery. We should be open to this adventure in heightened awareness of living. We should stake our whole existence on our willingness to explore and experience.”—Martin Buber

What does it mean to live a good life? This question has been debated and written about by many philosophers, thinkers and novelists throughout the course of humanity. In the field of psychology, two main conceptualizations of the good life have predominated: A happy life (often referred to as “hedonic well-being”), full of stability,  pleasure, enjoyment and positive emotions, and a meaningful life (often referred to as “eudaimonic well-being”), full of purpose, meaning, virtue, devotion, service and sacrifice. But what if these aren’t the only options?

In recent years, a long-neglected version of the good life has been receiving greater research attention: the psychologically rich life. The psychologically rich life is full of complex mental engagement, a wide range of intense and deep emotions, and diverse, novel, surprising and interesting experiences. Sometimes the experiences are pleasant, sometimes they are meaningful, and sometimes they are neither pleasant nor meaningful. However, they are rarely boring or monotonous.

After all, both happy and meaningful lives can become monotonous and repetitive. A person with a steady office job, married with children, may be generally satisfied with their life and find many aspects of their life meaningful and still be bored out of their mind. Also, the psychologically rich life doesn’t necessarily involve economic richness. For instance, consider Hesse’s character Goldmund, who has no money but pursues the life of a wanderer and a free spirit.

Recent research on psychological richness has found that it is related to, but partially distinct from, both happy and meaningful lives. Psychological richness is much more strongly correlated with curiosity, openness to experience and experiencing both positive and negative emotions more intensely. But is the psychologically rich life one that people actually want?

In a new study, Shigehiro Oishi and his colleagues propose that psychological richness is a neglected aspect of what people consider a good life and set out to assess how much people around the world actually desire such a life. The researchers asked people living in nine diverse countries the degree to which they value a psychologically rich life, a happy life and a meaningful life.

They found that many people’s self-described ideal lives involve psychological richness. When forced to choose a life, however, the majority chose a happy life (ranging from 49.7 percent to 69.9 percent) and a meaningful life (14.2 percent to 38.5 percent). Even so, a substantial minority of people still favored the psychologically rich life, ranging from 6.7 percent in Singapore to 16.8 percent in Germany…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE

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