Where does one even start?
Having a sense of purpose comes with a wealth of benefits. I can tell you, firsthand, that when I feel a strong sense of purpose in my life, all areas of my life seem to work better.
I feel a sense of fulfillment and strength with my health and fitness, and my career and businesses seem to move forward with ease. With purpose, I wake up earlier in the morning and engage in healthier habits throughout the day from eating foods with purpose and engaging in exercise with purpose. When I feel a sense of purpose and that I'm fulfilling on my mission in life, my friendships and other relationships are much more engaging, and I enjoy more presence in each. But what does the science have to say about purpose?
Psychologists have found repeatedly that people who have a strong sense of purpose enjoy better mental health, well-being, and even enjoy increased cognitive functioning.
A team of researchers from Canada and the United States recently surveyed just under 3,500 adults between the ages of 32 and 84. When they dug deeper, they found that there was a direct, positive correlation between those who felt they had a purpose in life with a stronger memory and overall higher test scores.
Although we are still learning more about how the brain supports increased human performance, there is little argument in the importance of promoting healthy cognitive function through defining one's purpose.
Adam Kaplin, MD, PhD, is the principle neuropsychiatric consultant to the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In his research investigating links between depression and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, he has become interested in the role that having a purpose in life may have on health.
There’s evidence that purpose in life helps people recover from addiction. It helps people with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. More recent findings show that having a purpose in life may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
As part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project, researchers followed a group of 246 older volunteers. People with a low purpose in life had a two-fold greater risk of developing Alzheimer's than those who scored high. That’s really dramatic. The greater their sense of purpose, the lower their risk. The interesting thing is that when the researchers looked at the brains of people in the study, the amount of abnormal plaques and other gummy-like substances in their brains that we associate with Alzheimer’s didn’t predict whether they had dementia. Instead, people with a greater sense of purpose in life were less likely to have symptoms of dementia, even though their brains looked the same as people who had Alzheimer's and a low purpose in life.
Other studies have shown that purpose in life is associated with other protective effects— a 50 percent reduction in stroke, heart attack, and all-cause mortality, for example. It’s important to point out that these studies show an association. They don’t prove that having a high purpose in life is the cause.
In another study of 6,849 teachers in Guangzhou, China researches found a link between purpose in life and resilience to stress. Across the board, the study found that the more purpose the teacher had in their life, the greater the teacher was able to manage their own stress and the better overall sense of health the teacher reported.
There have also been studies that have documented how purpose in life leads to a positive self image and a decrease in delinquent behavior in adolescents and young adults. These students celebrated higher overall well-being.
So if we know that having a sense of purpose creates better health and well-being, why aren’t we putting more emphasis on helping people find their purpose?
Well, that's what I'm here to #goDo. To help jumpstart your purpose, consider taking my 5 Days to Acceleration Course. It's FREE, so click here to SIGN UP!