Brain Food #383

Intensity and meaningfulness

Daily Brain Food.

Thoughts of the day

What we remember is not the sentiment behind a life event, but the intensity of it.

Researchers have often pitted ‘positive’ against ‘negative’ events to measure what they call a happy life. Happiness tends to positively correlate with the frequency of positive events in one’s life.

However, examining the emotional valence of an event may overlook how a combination of both positive and negative events can add up to a meaningful life. Extreme events, new research has found, can contribute both towards emotional intensity, but also increased contemplation, where one is forced to sit and wonder about what has occurred, and what they have become because of it. Intense moments give our lives a greater sense of meaning.

It could be why we choose to participate in sad or physically unpleasant activities, like listening to a sad song, or watching a tragic film, or even participating in a spicy food challenge or a long hike through a rainy, unfriendly forest.

After all, our life’s narrative is a collection of the events we remember, the moments that made us feel alive.


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