Unlocking the power of purpose for healingAug 27, 2022
Dealing with a health challenge is a bit like being a caterpillar entering a cocoon. Ready or not, you’re about to see your life transformed.
And as much as we all love to see the beautiful butterfly emerge from that cocoon, it’s much more intimidating when you’re the caterpillar about to undergo metamorphosis.
Any change in our lives can be scary, and those fears and anxieties are only compounded when facing changes due to our health. We’re worried about what our future holds, and how our lives will be different.
So how do we find the courage to embrace that change and redirect our lives to our new future? The answer may lie in an aspect of wellness too often looked over: our sense of purpose.
Health & wellness go beyond our physical needs
When we think about making an effort to improve our health, most of us consider the same couple of approaches.
First, you might make an effort to improve your diet and nutrition. You may cut soda or alcohol out of your diet, start eating a lot more vegetables, or begin cooking more and eating out less.
Then, you probably turn to exercise. You focus on increasing your physical activity level, whether it’s hitting the gym every day or just taking the stairs more often.
Finally - if you’ve really done your research - you might even work on improving your sleep routine, ensuring you get quality rest each night.
These are all important steps to improving your health. But there’s another key element that plays into our well-being that’s often overlooked: finding purpose.
The power of purpose
Diet and exercise focus mainly on addressing our physical healthcare needs. But we all have psychological needs that affect our health, too. That’s where the power of purpose comes in.
You can think of your purpose as the meaning of your life. It’s something that motivates you and helps you set goals for your future. A person with purpose feels more fulfilled in life - like they have true meaning and direction. And discovering that purpose can actually help improve your overall health. In fact, one researcher even called purpose “the deepest driver of well-being there is.”
So, let’s take a look at the power of purpose in healing.
How purpose affects our health
RBI takes a holistic approach to healthcare, which means we acknowledge that there are many different factors which contribute to a person’s overall health and well-being. Purpose is particularly important because it touches so many different aspects of our health, from impacting physical health issues to serving as the touchstone to our spiritual health.
Check out the many ways purpose influences health - see below.
Purpose and physical health
It may seem surprising, but something as simple as feeling a purpose in life can actually have a huge impact on our physical health and well-being. Here are some of the ways purpose can impact our physical health:
- People with purpose report lower stress rates. Stress is known to have a significant impact on our health, causing short-term problems like headaches, muscle tension, and anxiety, and more long-term problems like difficulty sleeping and exhaustion, high blood pressure, and heart disease. But a purposeful life may be a less stressful one, as people find themselves less bothered by stressors and more able to quickly recover from their influences.
- People with purpose make healthier lifestyle choices. When people feel their life has meaning, they are more likely to make active choices to prolong that life. Researchers noted that adults who self-identified as having "worthwhile" lives spent more time exercising and eating healthy, and less time drinking alcohol. A different study noted that people with purpose were more likely to seek out preventative healthcare services, like cholesterol tests, colonoscopies, mammograms, and prostate exams.
- People with purpose may even live longer. A study of over 7,000 adults aged 20 to 75 found that purposeful people lived longer than their peers, regardless of their age, location, or retirement status. Another study found that over a four year period, the risk of death for people who lacked purpose was twice that of those who felt purposeful. Across the board, adults with purpose seem to experience a diminished mortality risk.
In these ways, while purpose doesn’t directly influence our physical health in the same way that diet and exercise do, it can still have an incredibly powerful impact on our bodies and well-being. (And we can probably all agree that a longer, less stressful life sounds like the way to go!)
In addition to physical health benefits, purpose can also benefit our mental and emotional health.
Purpose and mental health
At a high level, purpose is good for our mood, our interpersonal relationships, and our overall sense of well-being. One study showed people with purpose were 43% less likely to report feelings of depression, and were less likely to feel lonely. Other studies show people with a strong sense of purpose are more emotionally resilient and able to recover more quickly from negative feelings. In other words, having a strong sense of purpose won’t necessarily force you to feel happy, but it can help you rebound from feeling unhappy.
Many people struggling with their mental health express a difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. But that’s exactly what purpose really is - your reason for getting up and going out into the world every day. While feeling a strong sense of purpose can’t singlehandedly rewrite our brain chemistry, it can give us one more tool in our arsenal to combat depression and other mental health challenges.
Purpose and spiritual health
Finally, purpose serves as a core component of spiritual wellness - the idea that we as individuals are connected to something greater than ourselves. Our sense of spiritual well-being is tied to the concept of purpose; we follow principles essential to ourselves in order to fulfill our purpose.
Our spiritual health is important because it grounds us during times of change, while giving us the courage and direction to make decisions. People with purpose not only feel more motivated to confront their health challenges, but more capable of doing so. In this way, people with a strong sense of purpose may feel more in control of their lives and more intentional in their actions, even in the face of health setbacks. Essentially, your purpose feeds your spiritual health, and your spiritual health in turn supports your mental, emotional, and physical health.
Discovering your purpose for your health
So, now that you understand how having a strong sense of purpose can positively impact your health, let’s take a look at discovering what purpose means for you and your individual healing journey.
What does purpose mean for me?
When asked about what they believe to be their life’s purpose, people may list things like:
- Developing strong relationships with their family and friends.
- Supporting their community or the world at large.
- Learning new skills or expanding their knowledge of the world.
- Exploring hobbies or leisure activities.
Any one of these - or something entirely different - might strike a chord with you as your life’s purpose. As you might have guessed, there isn’t one “right” purpose in life - just the right one for you! What you find valuable, meaningful, and important about living is totally unique to you. And discovering that purpose can be incredibly impactful in your healing journey.
Finding meaning in your health challenges
Many people haven’t stopped to consider their life’s true purpose. And that means many people may find themselves facing a health problem without that sense of purpose to help motivate and guide them. Luckily, such challenges can actually offer us the chance to discover our life’s purpose, by examining the purpose of one’s illness.
If you find yourself facing health challenges, view that as an opportunity to search for a deeper meaning and connection in your life. For example, maybe a health challenge has recently forced you to change your diet. But what’s the real reason you’re changing your eating habits, beyond improving your health? (Why are you improving your health at all?)
Maybe you want to improve your nutrition to be a good role model to a family member. If so, your life’s purpose is probably related to supporting your family.
Maybe you’re focused on improving your health because you know you have more you want to accomplish in life. In that case, your life’s purpose is related to completing certain goals.
Or maybe you want to make the change to your diet to prove it can be done. Your life’s purpose might be to motivate others to be the change they want to see in the world.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand the underlying reason behind every decision you make when it comes to your health. When you dive beneath the surface-level reasoning of “my doctor recommended this treatment” or “this habit makes me feel better,” what drives you forward?
Purpose provides strength, motivation, and direction
Understanding your purpose is important for your physical, mental, and spiritual health. But it’s also incredibly important when it comes to motivating yourself on your health journey.
When facing a health difficulty, it’s easy to get swept up asking “why.” Why is this happening? Why now? Why me?
But none of these questions are helpful, because they’re focused on searching for answers in your past.
Remember the caterpillar metaphor?
The caterpillar doesn’t ask why it builds a cocoon. It just acknowledges this transitional phase in its life and takes action to meet its future. The opportunity to blossom into something better.
Life has challenges, pains, and struggles that are sometimes unavoidable. If we approach these challenges as simply a stepping stone to our next best selves - using the purpose that drives us - we can overcome our setbacks and reinvent ourselves. We may not be able to avoid life’s challenges, but we can find meaning in them.
Want to take the next step to connect to your higher purpose?
Take our holistic approach to healthcare into your own hands by learning to discover your purpose and more with My RBI Academy. We’ll send you new tips and tricks for improving your cognitive health, all backed by our years of medical expertise and grounded in our holistic six pillar approach.