10 things that give meaning to our life


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Life is full of little pleasures. From the first snow of the season to the last bite of our favorite dessert, these moments add sparkle to our days.

But some things go even further, making life not only pleasant, but meaningful.

Recently, Pew Research Center interviewed nearly 19,000 adults from 17 advanced economies and asked them what gives meaning to their lives. Here are the categories cited by the greatest number of respondents.

1. Nature and the outdoors

Woman enjoying nature
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Respondents who mention this: 5%

Anyone who has sighed at a sunset or marveled at a flock of geese honking above their heads knows that nature opens a window to the wonders of life. Soaking up such moments clearly gives life more meaning.

With the onset of winter in many places, you may need some extra motivation to spend your daily dose of time outdoors. But bundling up and getting outside pays off, as we note in “5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising Outside in Winter”.

2. Education and learning

Man reading a book
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Respondents who mention this: 5%

As the Greek philosopher Socrates said: “Life without examination is not worth living. Challenging our minds and discovering more about our world gives it meaning.

Opportunities to learn abound – you’ll find them everywhere, from your local university to the nearest library or to your laptop. For more information, see:

3. Leisure and recreation

Father and older son playing video game
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Respondents who mention this: ten%

Life can be a drag if you never have fun. So it’s no surprise that people are turning to their hobbies and hobbies as a way to spice up their lives.

In fact, taking new interests late in old age can pay off big. As we reported:

“A 2020 study found that people between the ages of 60 and 80 improved their memory after playing a 3D Super Mario game for about half an hour a day over a period of a month. “

4. Freedom and independence

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Respondents who mention this: 12%

The joy of adulthood is being able to do what you want when you prefer to do it. This is true no matter where you live, but the sentiment is especially prevalent in America, where we have placed a high value on freedom for hundreds of years.

Unfortunately, the aging process can rob us of some of this valuable independence. To reduce the risk of suffering this fate, read “8 Essential Home Features for Aging in Place”.

5. Society and institutions

San Francisco, California
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Respondents who mention this: 14%

Even if you are single, you are never really alone. Instead, you are surrounded by people, places, and institutions that give life a great deal of meaning.

While many of these people and places are close to you, you can open up to an even bigger world just by traveling. To find the best travel deals, check out ShermansTravel, a Money Talks News partner.

6. Physical and mental health

Woman stretching before exercise
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Respondents who mention this: 17%

A healthy mind and fit body help us enjoy all that life has to offer. In fact, it’s hard to put a price on physical and mental health.

To learn more about building better health, read:

7. Friends and community

Group of friends eating in a restaurant
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Respondents who mention this: 18%

The simple pleasure of sharing a meal with friends is one of the great privileges of life. Strong connections with friends and the local community are good for your mental health – and can even help you live healthier lives for a longer period of time.

For example, as we have reported, volunteering during your retirement years has “a beneficial impact on self-reported health and reduced symptoms of depression in all seniors, regardless of their wealth status.”

8. Material well-being

senior couple saving money
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Respondents who mention this: 19%

There are things in life that are much more important than money. And yet, if you can’t pay your bills and live in a safe place, life probably doesn’t seem very meaningful.

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9. Profession and career

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Respondents who mention this: 25%

Millions of us derive great satisfaction – and a large part of who we are – from our work. A quarter of people around the world say their work gives life meaning.

If you don’t like your job, maybe it’s time to try something new. Are you looking for the opportunity to work from home? Browse the announcements published by the partner of Money Talks News Flexible jobs.

10. Family and children

Family getting ready to travel
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Respondents who mention this: 38%

It’s probably no surprise that family and kids are number one on this list – by far. Money and other measures of material success pale next to the meaning we get from being close to our loved ones.

If you are just starting the family trip, be sure to do it somewhere that meets the needs of the family. For more information on where to plant roots, read “Best and Worst States to Raise a Family in 2021”.

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