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The Importance of Purpose - Your Longevity and Wellbeing!

The Important of Purpose

Research shows that having a strong sense of purpose could significantly benefit our health and promote longevity. In fact the research is so consistent and significant that we cannot but pay attention to it.

Randy Cohen, a medical director of University Medical Practice Associates at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City reviewed data from ten studies involving 136,000 men and women to see the importance of purpose. It was found that people with a low sense of purpose, as measured by psychological surveys, were more likely to have a stroke, heart attack, or coronary artery disease requiring a stent or bypass surgery, whilst people with a high sense of purpose were less likely to have the same conditions

The findings also showed a 23 percent reduction in mortality and a 19 percent reduction in cardiovascular events among people with a sense of purpose. “What was so remarkable was that regardless of the country where the study was conducted, regardless of how purpose in life was defined, the effect was consistent,”

In 2014 a study found that people over age 65 who had a higher personal sense of purpose and well being were more likely to live longer. 9,000 participants were followed over an 8 ½-year period. The results showed that 9 percent of those in the highest well-being category died as compared to 29 percent in the lowest category.

In addition, according to Patricia A. Boyle, PhD, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Centre, “Purpose gives your brain resilience. It makes your brain stronger and more resistant to the effects of diseases like Alzheimer’s.”

According to four studies in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, participants 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 ½ 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

With statistics like these it would be wise to pay attention to the importance of having a sense of purpose in our lives!

So what is purpose?

Purpose is essentially a feeling of meaning, a feeling that we are making a difference and that we have something to get up for. Admittedly we all love a break but if we consider the research, taking too much time out or doing nothing purposeful can be unhealthy, and having worked with thousands of people over the last few years, I have to agree. Lack of purpose can be devastating to some people. We need stimulation, we need to be challenged and stretched. We were not born to be stagnant.

Tips for getting a sense of purpose.

  • Identify your individual qualities, skills and talents. You have many, even if you think you don’t. Just take a few minutes and write them down. You could ask people you trust for their input too!
  • Ask yourself how you can make a difference in the world using your individual qualities, skills and talents. There are many people looking for what you offer! Listen to what they are saying and looking for. What’s the gap that people need to be fulfilled? Fill it!
  • Become part of something bigger than yourself, whether that is a community, group or organisation etc. They can offer many roles that you might like to be part of.
  • Volunteer your services or time to someone who needs it - a charity, school, neighbour or the elderly, for example.
  • Get creative! Making something, drawing, gardening, cooking, baking, etc. allows you to see the produce of your efforts, something you can be proud of.
  • Learn something new. Take a class or join a course. Your brain loves stimulation and will thank you for it.
  • At the end of each day, review which activities have been "life-giving” and made you feel good. Become grateful and right them down.
  • Get out and experience life!
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