New research from Stanford and Florida State universities, led by Baumeister, has attempted to differentiate between happiness and meaning. “Although happiness and meaning are important features of a desirable life and indeed are interrelated, they have different roots and implications,” the researchers said.
They define happiness as a sense of subjective wellbeing, while meaning is a cognitive and emotional sense of purpose and value. Happiness, they say, is rooted in our animal nature.
“Among creatures with brains and central nervous systems … basic motivations [to survive and reproduce] impel them to pursue and enjoy those needed things, and the satisfaction of those needs generally produces positive-feeling states. Conversely, negative feelings arise when those needs are thwarted.”
Meaningfulness, on the other hand, is related to more sophisticated human attributes.