LIVING ON PURPOSE MAY EXTEND YOUR LIFE
Last week I stumbled upon an interesting article about the health benefits of having a purpose in life. This aspect of purpose driven living is not something I have consciously considered in the past. Once I read the article I began to see many of mentioned benefits showing up in my own life.
The article is based on a study by Patrick Hill, assistant professor of psychological and brain studies at Washington University in St. Louis. I’ve put a link to the article at the end of this post.
When you choose to live with purpose you also accept more responsibility for your life. Not only do you have a cause to work and live for, I believe you have a responsibility to keep yourself healthy to complete the work. After all, if your Purpose is worthy enough to dedicate your life, don’t you want to be healthy in body and mind so you are capable of doing it?
You can’t have impact in the lives of others if you can’t get out there and be with them. When you are too sick, or too weak, or too tired to do the work your mission suffers. You find that you are right where you were when you started this journey – frustrated, empty, and without meaning.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF PURPOSEFUL LIVING
Dr. Hill’s study has some interesting conclusions. One is that having a Purpose for their lives creates positive health effects that are independent of the “Big Five” personality traits. If you are unfamiliar with the “Big Five” they are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
This conclusion is interestingly aligned with our life Purpose being a part of our DNA, at least a part of our spiritual DNA. When we are in alignment with our God give Purpose, good things happen with our mind and our body! They come in the form of emotional and spiritual well-being, we are more capable leaders, our relationships are deeper, and… now…. even our health benefits from living with Purpose and intention.
In my own personal experience, I can confirm much of this. Once my Purpose became more focused and clear, I could take action. I could live with intention and channel my passions into purposeful activities. The spiritual and emotional well-being is very noticeable. Even my closest family members would say I am a more engaged person.
And I found that my physical health benefited as well. I really didn’t notice it until I read the article. Looking back, I realize that I do experience the same benefits mentioned in the article.
Who would have thought that focusing on purpose and living with intention could have physiological benefits? I expected the greater sense of well-being. I expected to be much more content with life circumstances. And I expected to have less stress and anxiety.
What I didn’t expect was having a healthier body. My perception of purposeful living as just an intellectual and spiritual exercise we flawed.
STRONG SPIRIT EQUALS STRONG BODY
Living on Purpose means you are tuned into your spirituality. For me that is my Christian faith. I believe my Purpose is a direct calling from God. We all have one.
When we tune into our faith through our Purpose, we are encouraged to live a healthier life. If nothing else we want to avoid the vices and bad habits that are known to cause poor health.
Your Purpose and your faith may not require you to eat organic food, become a vegan, eschew all forms of stimulants, etc. However, it likely encourages habits that are otherwise heathier. The activities you engage in, or avoid, are also likely healthier. The link between good health and lifestyle is well established. Given that a healthy lifestyle is directly linked to mortality, a life of Purpose could actually extend your live!
QUELCH THE BURN OUT
Pursuing your Purpose also lowers your stress levels.
Consistent, high stress suppresses your immune system. That means your body can’t fight disease and infection in as well. Studies have shown that people who regularly engage in faith-based habits such as prayer and worship minimize this stress impact by relaxing the body and lowering anxiety. A Purpose built around a faith calling will certainly do this for you.
I am a true believer in the stress reducing impact of purposeful living. I have experienced it myself. Once I got focused on the right things for me, I could feel the stress and anxiety start to bleed away. There are still days when I feel stress. Those days, however, are born out of specific critical or urgent situations. It doesn’t come from worry.
A purposeful life, especially one coming from faith, causes you to think with a heathy mindset.
Your brain is your body’s Mission Control. What you think about impacts your body’s ability to do its job. Several studies suggest that people with a strong faith don’t suffer from depression as much as the general population. Living with a Purpose gives your mind a noble focus on which it can constantly dwell. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever get depressed. It doesn’t mean your faith will cure any mental illness. However, a strong Purpose in life, supported by faith, seems to be a mitigating element.
YOUR PERSONAL COMMUNITY
Living with Purpose increases your circle of friends and influence. I can’t think of any God given purpose that would not cause your life to intersect with others. You were not designed to be a hermit. Your Purpose is not just to give you personal fulfillment. Your Purpose is designed to benefit others. It is to make your part of the world a much better place. This is the noble cause your Purpose is to accomplish.
As a result, you will build a unique community of people that you touch by living your Purpose. And while this community will intersect with other groups of people, it will revolve around your intentional living. That is not the same as being the center of attention. It is about you being intent on living your Purpose.
This is an especially powerful when your Purpose is one derived from faith. As you build this community you are connecting with people in much deeper way. This connection transcends the depth of professional colleagues, neighbors, etc. What this means is that you are making friends! When you have a group of people in your life, at this depth of connection, you have more people who can help YOU in challenging times.
Apparently helping other people also helps you to stay healthy as well! According to Christian Smith, a research sociologist, people who donate ten percent or more of their income score 10 percentage points higher on his “happiness scale”. There are other studies that suggest people who are suffering from illness or disease, and who focus time on helping others in similar circumstances, actually improve faster and better than those who don’t give help.
Even the Bible supports the health benefits that come from living a Purposeful life. If we agree that living with purpose gives you greater joy, peace, and contentment, then we can trust what is said in Proverbs…
“A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick.”
THE VERDICT IS IN
Still not convince? In a study completed by the National Academy of Sciences on older adults, they found that a “higher sense of purpose” resulted in a more frequent use of preventive health services. In other words, these people took care of themselves by making use of things like cholesterol screenings, mammograms, and prostate exams. They also spent less time in the hospital.
Their conclusion is that if you believe your life matters for something noble, something that is bigger than yourself – your Purpose, you believe you need to take care of yourself so you can accomplish your mission.
In fact, other studies reveal that there are protective benefits from having a purpose in life. Live your Purpose is associated with a 50 percent reduction in heart attack and stroke!
Living with Purpose isn’t just some abstract ethereal concept. It’s not just about finding happiness or inner peace. Those are by-products of living a purposeful life. Living with Purpose is more of a lifestyle. It is about becoming the person you were designed to be. This means much more than just doing good things. It also produces tangible results for us physiologically and psychologically.
While we are going about making a positive impact in our world, in our community, at work or in our businesses, and in our families, we are also making ourselves healthier at the same time.
That is a true win-win situation!
MY PERSON PURPOSE-HEALTH CONNECTION
It’s clear that you can’t be an effective individual if you are always sick and tired. When you just don’t want to get out of bed, it is hard to be super motivated about anything. I found myself in this situation years ago while working in a high paying, high stress job. The work had nothing to do with my Purpose. Even though I was leveraging a lot of my passions in the job, I did not feel any sense of meaningful impact.
This, for me, was the nagging emptiness I’ve written about before.
What kept me there was a sense of loyalty for the people under me. I felt that if I left I would be deserting them. There was also that pesky “pain of change”. Leaving would mean a huge change for me, my team, and especially for my family. At the time it just seemed less painful to stay.
I knew it was time to go. Actually, I had known it for at least a year. Some mornings I had to physically will myself into the office. Other mornings I couldn’t. There were times during the day I just had to leave for a while to escape the situation. Finally, I made the change. It was scary, but it was right.
Sometimes our current situation, whether work or personal, is like a heavy, dark cloud. We know we need to make a change. Our inner calling is driving us away, but we don’t go. We are living out of sync with our purpose and we are paying the price with our emotional and physical health.
Of course, knowing and living your Purpose is not a cure-all tonic. The health benefits noted here are derivative affects. Less stress, anxiety, cheerfulness, better sleep, etc.… these all come from a purposeful life. These affects then help keep your body and mind healthy and functioning at optimal performance.
TO START LIVING YOUR PURPOSE YOU MUST START TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
Fortunately, today there are more ways to incorporate good health into your lifestyle than ever before. Especially in the United States. Acknowledge that you can’t always avoid injury. There may be hereditary or genetic factors that impact your health. You may be exposed to toxic or dangerous things in a job. This is not what I am talking about. Neither am I suggesting that you live in a bubble.
What you can do are simple, practical things that keep you healthy and able to live for your Purpose. If you believe as I do that your Purpose is divinely given, then you must do all you can to stay ready, capable and available for the work you need to do. This simply means you have to eat right, exercise your body, and exercise your mind.
You might ask, “What is the best program or system to stay physically and mentally healthy?” My answer is…
The program or system you will use consistently.
I’ve tried several, from P90X to Body for Life. In my busy life I need something that is simple to understand and implement, doesn’t take a lot of time, and gets results. If that is what you want, then let me make a couple of recommendations.
Physical and Nutritional Wellness
I have been using the Old School New Body program. For around $20 you get their F4X workout guide so you can get a physically fit in about 90 minutes a week. If you are thinking you don’t have 90 minutes a week consider that there are 10,080 minutes in every week. Can you really say you can’t devote less than 1% (.8% to be exact!) of your time to be healthy? You also get guidance on nutrition that makes sense. I’ve been doing the program for over two years and very pleased with the results.
To keep you mind active and exercised I recommend Claudia Altucher's book Become An Idea Machine. This is an innovative approach to sharpening your mind. The book tasks you with creating ten new ideas every day for one year. She gives you prompts for each day. I’ve found it has improved my creative thinking and problem-solving abilities as well.
Living with purpose requires active effort. It is an intentional way of living. There are clearly many physical, emotional, and psychological benefits to you. You must also make the time to keep yourself ready and capable walking the journey you calling takes you. Use these recommendations, or find the things that work for you, and get started along the path of a more meaningful, fulfilling, and healthier life.
What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments below…