Over the past two decades, dozens of studies have shown that older adults with a sense of purpose in life are less likely to experience disease, disability, and cognitive impairment. They are also more likely to live longer and healthier than people without this underlying motivation.
Research also reveals that individuals with a sense of purpose are more proactive in taking care of their health, have better impulse control, and engage in healthier activities. Therefore, they are in better shape emotionally and physically than those who lack purpose.
But what is purpose and how can it be cultivated? Purpose is a sense of meaning and direction in life. It is a fundamental component of a fulfilling life. Finding fulfillment is often not necessarily by doing earth-shattering things, but by simple acts of caring and generosity. Small, simple goals such as taking care of a pet, helping a neighbor, or creating a lovely garden can give meaning to life.
Aligning ourselves to a purpose often makes us less self-centered and helps us feel a part of something bigger. Our own problems begin to seem less significant, and we spend less time thinking about them, thus our sense of well-being increases.
Sadly, many adults feel less purposeful as they age. When roles from which they once derived meaning disappear, purpose often fades. Lacking a sense of purpose makes them more vulnerable to boredom, anxiety and depression. On the other hand, people who have a sense of direction and meaning possess a stronger sense of well-being and are less likely to experience negative moods.
Asking yourself the question “What gives meaning to my life?” will reveal what is truly important to you. In addition, paying attention to the activities in which you engage that promote a sense of wellbeing will give you clues as to what truly fulfills you. Give yourself permission to explore the things you love to do and what comes easy for you. The things that bring you joy are typically in alignment with your purpose and will bring you the greatest fulfillment.