Sense Of Purpose & Living Longer. “Why?” Is A Very Important Question:
When most people think about health, the thoughts that come to mind are usually, “Eat Right & Exercise”.
And if they think about brain/mental health, the ideas that come up are: Anxiety and Anti-Depressants.
There’s nothing wrong with that, because those are the big-ticket items in magazines.
But the Yoga & Meditation crowd have subconsciously-circled a much deeper issue.
And scientists from the University of Michigan are finding research-backed evidence that getting the important stuff about your mind right eventually helps your body…
Psychosomatic Health Returns!:
So we’ve touched on this before, that even though phrenology is a discredited science,
Something very much like it isn’t, because Science has discovered that if you’re happy then there’s a good chance you’re healthy, too.
So much so, that people who smiled in old photographs were shown to live 7 years longer than their frowning counterparts.
But as a few intellectuals like Malcolm Gladwell and Jordan Peterson suggest, there might even be something deeper in life than Happiness.
And the short answer is a shorter life for you if you don’t find one you believe in.
Read on to find out more…
The Direction You Undertake Willingly:
And that’s an interesting choice, because in many ways, Purpose can be looked-at as a positive challenge.
A body of knowledge to learn, personal improvements to undertake, a course to chart,
And most of all a “Why” for the condition of living your life.
All of which seem like even more meaningful-dimensions than what may seem like just a mood.
While we previously discussed the similarly-deep and healthy benefits of Vacation by Diagnosis,
And that they included a way to “fix” your imbalances by getting you something helpful and meaningful just like Walter Mitty,
Perhaps focusing on something like a Quest, similar to the one Walter goes on can lead you to greater things than just fixing an imbalance.
Here’s What They Found About Sense Of Purpose & Longevity:
The recent study just might suggest that is possible.
Because out of nearly 7,000 Americans over age 50, the central reason behind that quest made a big difference.
When Celeste Pierce’s team looked at the rate & cause of early-mortality for the Health & Retirement Study group,
People in those 4 years who responded to the 7-question survey with answers that indicated they had a strong sense of purpose,
Ended up living significantly-longer than those who didn’t.
What’s more amazing is that the study also controlled for Demographics, race, education-level, and also smoking and drinking.
These results also held for both All-Cause, and also Heart, Circulatory, and Blood-Disorders, too.
Those Results Are Crazy! How Could It Work That Way?:
The study authors give us a few clues there, too.
And although they join several other small studies on the subject that are beginning to make up the body of knowledge,
They’re still important to note.
1) Purpose-driven subjects likely had lower long-term levels of the stress-hormone Cortisol
2) They also probably had less Total Stress, and Toxic-Stress, too.
3) They also had less Chronic Inflammation
4) As a result, lower levels of stress-driven Inflammation chemicals like C-Reactive Protein (CRAP),and IL-6, and perhaps IL-1B
5) Lower levels of Stress would also Activate Fewer Genes related to Inflammation as well.
Heavy Stress Beats Good Nutrition:
As bizarre as this might sound, there is already a basis for it.
A short while ago, OSU researchers found that Toxic or Chronic-Unresolvable Stress was so bad for you,
That it even Negated the effects of eating well.
And subjects who did so but had that stress ended up with cardiovascular systems just as unhealthy as people eating really bad food with tons of inflammatory compounds in it.
Their conclusion after that study was that you really have to make sure you treat yourself well, or even healthy-eating might not help you live 1 minute longer!
Anticipation, Beginning, And End:
Another thing we’ve learned along the way is that our brains are buzzkills.
They all engage in something we call Hedonic Adaptation.
And that means, shortly after you achieve a new level in something or get a new shiny thing,
You get used to it, and just like a drug-addict, you need to move on to the next thing or you go back to your baseline.
Well Purpose is something that just keeps you moving.
It’s not really 1 single end-goal, it’s a way of being.
And the study on maximizing your vacations gives us another insight into that.
Because the best part of Vacations were
1) Pre-Vacation Anticipation
2) The Beginning
3) The End
4) Forming Long-Term Memories With Souvenirs, Albums, & Scrapbooks Afterward
And guess what a Purpose does?
Yup, it keeps you on that road with small versions of that 4-step loop as you go.
There is always something to anticipate, experience, achieve & remember through the whole process.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!:
Guess what is also good for your health and related to Purpose?
When you engage in a path that is meaningful to you,
Being thankful for every day and the progress you make along that path can become easier.
In the book “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell describes the miracle of Meaningful Work something along these lines:
1) Something You Choose
2) Something You Can Improve-At As You Go
3) A Vocation With Some Control Over Circumstances
4) An Amount Of Complexity That Keeps You Interested But Not Overwhelmed
5) Benefits Commensurate With Effort
And here are the main study-supported benefits you get from the Gratitude you might experience through any type of meaningful-work:
1) Reduction In Overeating
2) Better Sleep
3) Lowering Depression Over Time
4) Better Personal Health & Self-Care Practices
5) More Enduring Long-Term Happiness
Even the Memories themselves of that work & achievement along the way are good for your health & resilience, too!
Or as the Buzzword-droppers like to call it, “Grit”.
If You Want The Gratitude, You Need The Attitude:
Other previous work has also suggested that you need more than just Purpose.
And though the Michigan work does not stipulate anything about character or personality-type directly,
Studies by Johan Denollet and University College London suggest that just your attitude alone might make a huge difference.
If you have the Type-D personality that is the Irritable, Pessimistic, Grouch kind, your cardiovascular health will probably suffer along with your lifespan.
It might even render the effects of Purpose either moot, or invalid.
In the UCL work, it was even shown if you’re the type that has a youthful attitude and thinks that “Age Is Just A Number”,
Then you are going to live about 11% longer, also.
You would also sound more likely to be in Pearce’s High-Purpose group as-well.
So Where Would You Start?:
Where you start to fix the things that underpin Purpose is a much bigger question than this site can answer.
It probably has something to do with:
1) Fixing your limiting-beliefs and unrealistic-standards
2) Improving your chances by reducing the mental-health impacts of an inflammatory diet
3) Once you’ve leveled-out, Asking yourself honestly what you really want and what actually matters
4) Making tough but necessary changes
You could also start by revisiting the Mechanics of Happiness by experts like Sonja Lyubomirsky and Daniel Kahneman.
The Mechanics Of Happiness May Support Your Efforts:
Because those would give also give you a framework to establish the basis that could level you out from your immediate circumstances with time,
And also remind you to be realistic in your expectations of what can happen for the amount of effort you put into each of the Life-Satisfaction Buckets.
But it’s worth it, because although Happiness seems like it’s really the short-term cousin of Purpose,
Dr. Ed Diener and Sarah Pressman looked at over 100 studies and found it can improve at-least these parts of your life:
2) Sleep Quality
4) Exercise Quality & Frequency
5) Cardio Health
6) Inflammation Reduction
8) Hormone Function
9) Increased Youthfulness Even In Parts Of The Body’s Cells
10) Possibly Slower-Aging From Better Mitochondria Function
Pick A “Job” You Love And Never “Work” A Day In Your Life…:
So despite the inevitable overlaps,
There’s a lot to like about many different components about a positive-life.
And if Happiness can lead to so many positive health-outcomes,
Just think of how much more it’s big-brother could bring to you.
Now we have one more study that shows that things like Meaningful-Work, Happiness,
And even something a bit lofty like Purpose can transcend the philosophical and make a real difference in the quality, and length, of your life!
Photo Credits: “navigate”, by Ulrik De Wachter