Do You Have a Sense of Purpose?
Living your life with a strong sense of purpose may lower your risk for early death, heart attack or stroke, new research suggests.
"Psychosocial conditions such as depression, anxiety, chronic stress and social isolation have strong associations with heart disease and mortality," said lead author Dr. Randy Cohen, a cardiologist at Mount Sinai St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospitals in New York City. Recently, however, his attention has focused on the impact that positive emotions have on overall health and well-being.
He believes that, "Purpose in life is considered a basic psychological need, and has been defined as a sense of meaning and direction in one's life, which gives the feeling that life is worth living.”
His research team reviewed 10 published studies and found that compared to people with a low sense of purpose, those who had a strong sense of purpose had a 23% reduced risk of death from any cause. The study also found that a strong purpose in life was also linked to a 19 % reduced risk for cardiovascular-related events such as heart attack or stroke, coronary artery stent placement or bypass surgery.
A Sense of Purpose is also Good for the Brain
The benefits of living purposefully may not be limited to heart health. Additional research conducted at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago suggests a strong sense of purpose can protect the brain.
“Purpose somehow gives your brain resilience,” says Patricia A. Boyle, PhD, a neuropsychologist with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “It makes your brain stronger and more resistant to the effects of diseases like Alzheimer’s.”
According to four studies published by the Boyle’s team, subjects who scored higher on the purpose scale were:
- 29 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
- 52 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's Disease (AD)
- 2.5 times more likely to be free of dementia
- 44 percent less likely to have a stroke
- 52.3 percent less likely to have microscopic blood vessel infarcts that damage brain tissue
When you stop to think about it, it all makes sense. Your mental and psychological health and well-being are important components of physical health.
If you believe your life has meaning, you’re more likely to take care of yourself.
What about You?
If someone asked you today, “What is your life purpose?”, how easy would it be to answer that question? I’m not talking about what you do for a living. I’m talking about the reason you exist. The reason you walk the earth.
Hint: If you are not living each day with enthusiasm, energy, thirst and passion, then you may not be living true to your life purpose.
Life purpose doesn’t have to be on a scale of a magnitude of finding a cure for diseases. You don’t have to feel like it’s too grand that it makes you afraid to declare one. And, you should not be diverted by someone else’s expectations and predetermined ideas about what a worthwhile purpose should be.
So, what about it?
Do you know your life purpose? Or, do you think it’s just some new age mumbo jumbo and life can be lived without having a central purpose?
Having a life purpose is a vital base for your personal vision. It helps you differentiate between the important and the unimportant. It helps you focus on the right goals. It helps you do things that add meaning instead of getting pulled down with tasks that add no real value. Life purpose also helps you successfully transition between life stages. If you don’t understand your purpose, you’ll never be able to align it with your overall vision. You’ll never quite match the two successfully. And now, it appears your body and mind will thank you for it.
Your turn: What do you think? How important is having (and knowing) your life purpose? And, are you currently living your purpose?
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Johnston Osburn is a Career and Life Coach who helps people turn dreams into realities. After years as a Global Talent Acquisition Professional, she realized how frequently people limit themselves because they lack belief in their abilities. They are afraid to dream, let alone dream big. [...]