I recently came across a  description of a research study that found a correlation between engaging in meaningful activities and happiness.  The lead researcher was Michael Steger, a psychologist at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.  He and colleagues had a group of 65 undergraduates complete an online survey that assessed how many times they participated in pleasure-seeking behaviors and how often they participated in meaningful activities, such as helping others, listening to friends’ problems or pursuing life goals.   The survey asked participants how much purpose they felt their lives had each day and whether they felt happy or sad.  Online entries were made every day for a three week period.  

As we might expect, the more the students participated in meaningful activities, the happier they were and the more purpose they felt their lives had.  The meaningful activities listed in the article included both doing good deeds for others and activities that fostered the person’s own goals.  It would be interesting to know whether each was equally associated with happiness ratings.  Perhaps the more interesting finding of the study is that pleasure-seeking behaviors were not correlated with happiness.  I guess that’s bad news for hedonism.  I’m sure the Puritans would be glad.