Having a strong sense of purpose in life is not a guarantee for happiness. However, a growing body of scientific research suggests a sense of purpose is extremely beneficial to your health, going so far as to aid the aging process and to even help you live longer.
There’s no formal definition of having a sense of purpose in life. But most agree it’s the feeling that life has meaning and is worth living. Learn exactly how you can cultivate a sense of purpose to live a happier, longer life.
The Health Benefits
Research has shown people with a low sense of purpose are more likely to have a stroke, heart attack or coronary disease requiring bypass surgery. On the flip-side, individuals with a high sense of purpose had a lower risk for the same conditions.
Another study discovered a strong sense of purpose can also protect the brain, giving you resilience to diseases like Alzheimer’s. In fact, a person with a sense of purpose is 2.4 times less likely to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.
What’s remarkable about these health benefits is you can see improvements without having a concrete definition of purpose. That’s because what provides a sense of purpose can vary greatly from person to person.
Not only does a sense of purpose in life attribute to healthy aging, but it can also be a factor in longer lifespans. According to one study examining 7,000 Americans, a sense of purpose can often lead individuals to live healthier lifestyles. When followed up with 14 years later, these purposeful individuals were found to have outlived their counterparts, even when accounting for outside factors like negative mood. This longevity also had no bearing on a person’s age or whether they were retired.
How to Gain a Sense of Purpose
Now that we know the benefits of a sense of purpose, the question is, for someone lacking a strong sense of purpose in life, can improvements be made? The answer is a resounding yes. There are always steps you can take to discover what you’re passionate about and make your life one with purpose.
If you feel you lack a sense of direction and purpose in life, try asking yourself the following questions:
- What are your unique talents and gifts?
- What are you most willing to put effort into?
- What causes do you talk most often about?
- How to do prefer to spend your time?
- How can you make a difference?
One common way to derive a sense of purpose in life is to practice altruistic habits, such as donating money, time and effort. Look for a volunteer or nonprofit organisation in your community that interests you. Then, ask how you can help out on a regular basis. Whether you’re serving meals at a local soup kitchen or spending companionable time with the elderly, you’ll be sure to discover that life has a lot of meaning.
You should also explore your interests, especially untapped ones you’ve been ignoring. What do you like to talk about or share on social media? Which articles do you seek out most often? When you learn more about what interests you, you can learn find ways to turn your hobbies into passions.
Do you like to get out and meet new people? Another way to discover new meaning in life is attend new events, such as a celebration for World Humanitarian Day, where you can get with like-minded people to discover the larger purpose of life and your place in it.
Living a Purposeful Life
The key to a long and healthy life isn’t always a clean diet and regular exercise. Research has found one of the strongest components to health is having a sense of purpose in life.
But there’s no true definition for what purpose is — it’s something you’ll have to determine for yourself. To get started, ask yourself some prying questions about your interests and passions. And try to seek out new people by joining local interest groups or participating at volunteer organisations.
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.
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