Are you comfortable with why you’re here and where you’re headed? If you are, it could lead to a healthier life and boost how you feel every day.
A new study reports that people who have found meaning in their lives fare better when it comes to both physical and mental health compared to their counterparts who continue to search for purpose.
The research team from the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine suggests that people with meaning may experience better health, wellness and longevity, improved mood, better relationships, and improved mental performance.
More than 1,000 people from a variety of ages filled out questionnaires designed to assess purpose, physical and mental health, as well as mental acuity. Results indicated that older individuals may be struggling with retirement, lost friends and family, illness, and mortality tend to look for meaning as the word they know may change drastically.
Overall, researchers noted a U-shape relationship between meaning and age, where people sought meaning in the early part of their lives (the 20s) then it leveled off as they grew into themselves (30+) then back to seeking meaning in older age.
The reason why meaning may play such an important role in overall health is its potential relationship to stress. A lack of purpose may lead to fear and anxiety about what comes next or your place in the world. In turn, it can lead to physical symptoms like poor sleep, inflammation, high blood pressure, and more conditions associated with stress and anxiety.
It’s common to wonder about life’s purpose as you age. The meaningful things that occupied so much of your life for so long—career, family, friends—may not be there anymore, and it can leave you asking what the heck you’re even here for.
If you are searching for meaning in your life after a rough go of things, one place to start is by accepting the things in your life that you can’t change. From there, begin to focus on the various things you can do to make yourself happy and useful to others. It could be something like joining a club, volunteering, planning your retirement, or taking on a hobby. If you’re struggling coming up with something on your own, then consider having a meaningful conversation with a friend.