By engaging with the following three fundamental practices, individuals can expect to build up a deeper sense of meaning and find purpose in their lives.
1. Life crafting
Schippers and Ziegler (2019) propose a positive psychology intervention designed specifically to help individuals find purpose and meaning in their lives. This intervention helps individuals reflect on their values and competencies before envisioning a desired future and taking steps towards attaining those goals.
This intervention involves seven stages:
- Write about your passion and values.
- Write about your competencies and habits.
- Write about your present and future social life.
- Write about your possible future career path.
- Write about your ideal versus less ideal future.
- Create some goals and if–then statements.
- Publicly commit to your goals.
2. Practice gratitude
Oftentimes, when things feel hopeless, we need to take a step back and engage in some reflection and reframing. Gratitude is an effective way to supercharge wellbeing and bolster meaning by helping individuals appreciate the good things that come their way (Emmons & Shelton, 2002).
Crucially, gratitude can allow individuals to reframe negative events and identify meaning within them — even during the most challenging times.
3. Foster a growth mindset
When experiencing meaninglessness or existential concern, an individual’s outlook on life can become narrowed. Building and maintaining an open mind can act as a buffer against feelings of uncertainty (Kossowska et al., 2020).
To actively shift toward a growth mindset, individuals can try out this growth mindset activity, which helps individuals reframe their beliefs about life and their approach to challenging situations.
Resources From PositivePsychology.com
Here at PositivePsycology.com, we have practical exercises and tools that can be used to help build meaning in times of existential crisis.
The Meaning & Valued Living Masterclass
This brilliant masterclass is designed specifically to help individuals find their sense of meaning and purpose in life. Drawing upon the work of Viktor Frankl (1985), the Meaning & Valued Living Masterclass© enables individuals to develop their “why” for living, including honing in on your values.
Within the masterclass, you have access to exclusive science-backed content created and delivered by experts, exercises and activities, and resources including teaching and practitioner handbooks and videos.
For more meaning exercises, you may find our article on living a meaningful life helpful. In this article, there are five evidence-based steps individuals can take to build meaning, including identifying passions and boosting social connections.
One surefire way to build meaning and protect yourself from meaninglessness during challenging times is to practice mindfulness. In the attached article, there are a variety of free mindfulness worksheets for adults and children, including exercises on mindful listening, eating, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and many more.
As a practitioner, you may find these existential therapy techniques helpful for your practice as well as our article on existential therapy.
Our curated list of meaning of life books will guide you through hours of discovery and insight, helping you find purpose.
Worksheets can be powerful tools to guide clients toward healing and reflection, and we have a huge selection of insightful and useful worksheets. From our extensive library, we handpicked the following:
Healing From Trauma Through Writing is an exercise to help clients find meaning and resolution in their trauma.
Aware–Explore–Apply seeks to identify character strengths, how these strengths can be meaningful, and how to put them to good use.
Hope can be a powerful way to foster a deeper sense of meaning (Feldman & Snyder, 2005), and in the linked worksheet, individuals can actively build their hope and resilience by answering some questions about times when they have felt most hopeful. Individuals are also asked to list their three biggest aspirations and some of the sources of hope in their lives.
Feelings of isolation and despair can be blinding to the helping hands and relationships present. This Expressing Gratitude to Others worksheet is an eye-opening exercise that will also improve relationships.
If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others discover meaning, check out this collection of 17 validated meaning tools for practitioners. Use them to help others choose directions for their lives in alignment with what is truly important to them.
A Take-Home Message
Life is messy and can be fraught with periods of challenge and upheaval. This is what it means to be human.
While it may be impossible to completely avoid existential crises, it is possible to be proactive about building meaning. More importantly, these periods of reflection and questioning can be a positive experience, allowing you to flourish.
In fact, discovering meaning during challenging times can be a source of societal resilience, growth, and hope (Vos et al., 2023). Indeed, meaning in life can be found even during the darkest times, through pain and suffering (Wong, 1998).
So don’t shy away when existential concerns emerge; rather, lean into practices that can help buffer against negative feelings and generate greater meaning and purpose.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free.