When you learn how to live the life you love, you are more likely to live longer and be healthier. Your mental well-being is just as important as your physical state when you think about healthy habits that contribute to longevity.
Ageing is something that concerns all of us, and while we cannot control whether we get old, we can control how we get old. We can control how we live, our mindset, and how to live the life we love can make a critical difference in the ageing process as it affects our mental, physical, emotional and even our spiritual state.
Loving your life and living your passions means to live with a purpose that drives happiness, joy, contentment, a value within self and of course leads to better ageing.
How To Live The Life You Love
What Does Purpose Mean?
What do we mean by purpose?
Whether you think of it as your calling, your life’s ambition, or your passion, researchers studying longevity and purpose define it as, “The psychological tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and to possess a sense of intentionally and goal directness that guides behavior” (Effect of a Purpose in Life on Risk of Incident Alzheimer Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment in Community-Dwelling Older Persons, Boyle, et al.).
When you have a strong purpose in your life, you are likely to enjoy:
- a longer lifespan;
- a greater sense of happiness and satisfaction;
- better mental health and a more positive outlook;
- consistent, restful sleep;
- greater personal growth;
- a higher sense of self-acceptance and
- less depression.
Living with purpose has so many positive mental and physical benefits, and researchers are examining the role of purpose in longevity more closely now than ever before.
Does Purpose Promote Longevity?
Whether you think of it as your calling or your passion, having a purpose in life provides you with something to care about outside of yourself and something to look forward to when you wake up each day.
There is a strong correlation between purposeful living, living longer, and reduced risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Several researchers have been examining this phenomenon, and the results are astounding.
A team of researchers from Rush University Medical Center conducted a well-controlled study of 1200 seniors living in aged-care communities and facilities. The participants were all older people without dementia.
After collecting baseline data from each person regarding their purpose in life, the researchers studied the participants for seven years to observe if their cognitive functioning and measure the rate of any cognitive decline.
At each visit, participants were asked to rate their level of agreement with specific statements about their purpose. The elderly participants who described themselves as having little sense of purpose were nearly twice as likely to die during the observation period than those with a higher sense of purpose.
Those who died were more likely to agree with statements such as these:
- “I used to set goals for myself, but that now seems like a waste of time.”
- “My daily activities often seem trivial and unimportant to me.”
- “I sometimes feel as if I’ve done all there is to do in life.”
While it is true these statements have particular meaning and importance for older people, it seems relevant and essential to consider the impact of these beliefs on younger people, too.
Similar studies by the same team indicate that a strong sense of purpose also helps stave off cognitive impairment and neurological damage, the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia disorders. Having a purpose and knowing how to live the life you love keeps people busy and active, which assists in retaining brain function over time.
In their continued research, the Rush team found that a high sense of purpose meant a person was 2.4 times more likely to live without Alzheimer’s than a person with little or no sense of purpose. Those in the high-purpose group experienced mild cognitive impairment less and had a slower rate of cognitive decline as they age than those in the low-purpose group.
Outside of dementia and Alzheimer’s, those with a higher sense of purpose had fewer incidences of loss of semantic memory, episodic memory, perceptual speed, and working memory. All of these are critical cognitive functions that can decrease with age.
In addition to cognitive benefits, having a higher sense of purpose has been correlated with other benefits that lead to a longer life. A study of over 12,000 Hungarians suggested a correlation between having a higher sense of purpose and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer (Life Meaning: An Important Correlate of Health in the Hungarian Population, Skrabski, et al.).
Dan Buettner, who has been studying longevity in populations around the world, has noted that those cultures where life purpose is high overall and people know how to live the life they love tend to live longer.
Buettner calls these areas of the world with longer lifespans “Blue Zones,” and within each of these areas, the concept of purpose is an important part of each culture.
These regions not only see people living longer but also showing lower rates of arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and strokes.
It is important to understand what makes you happy and what brings you joy.
This is often considered to be the “right outlook” for ageing. There is something to be said for living your passions as people with purpose are often engaged in meaningful activities, connect with others to work toward a common goal, and challenge themselves to try new things to attain their dreams.
Learning how to live the life you love and living with purpose and meaning will help you to live longer, be healthier, and stay happier.
How Purpose Promotes Longevity
While it remains unclear the exact physiological reason for the connection between longevity and purpose, there is much evidence to support this theory.
Those with lack of purpose in life are more likely to have raised levels of cortisone, which is the stress hormone.
They also have a higher incidence of inflammation, lower levels of “good” cholesterol, and more abdominal fat.
These are all risk factors for cardiovascular problems, diabetes, cognitive issues, and other health problems that can shorten your life.
While researchers may not fully understand the physical reasons for the connection between purpose and longevity, those who have been studying it for years have a few ideas.
If you think of our ancestors, having a clear life purpose served them well. The drive to serve others and be productive is what created civilizations, promoted innovation, and made the society in which we now live. From an evolutionary standpoint, purpose was important to survival from the beginning of human existence.
Today, humans gain the same satisfaction as our ancestors from enjoying greater opportunity, being connected to others in our community, and exploring the world in which we live.
Find Your Purpose And Love Life
When it comes to finding your bliss, your passion, or your calling, many may be wondering, but how do I find mine? Regardless of your age, it is never too late to find something to care about and start living purposefully.
It is important to remember that finding your purpose in life is not necessarily about finding your dream job or even identifying a career path.
When you are young, this may seem counter-intuitive, but turning something you love into the way you make money can change how you feel about your purpose. Whether you choose to make money from your purpose or use it as a way to contribute to the world, don’t go into your search for purpose with the sole result of finding a new career, or you might be disappointed.
Finding a purpose can help you in many ways throughout your life. Purpose reduces your stress and anxiety, as you have clear goals toward which to work. Purpose can motivate action, a clearer sense of yourself, and confidence in your own decisions.
Without purpose, though, you can experience a lethargy that is not only sad but can be dangerous. Without purpose, you may find it difficult to get through your day and you will be unmotivated.
If you don’t learn how to live the life you love, you will be more likely to suffer from depression and other mental health problems.
Purpose doesn’t have to be a lifelong mission to feed the poor or end violence. Purpose is specific to you and your context, and your purpose in life may change over time, as you grow, learn, and mature. You can find purpose in everyday moments and in interactions with others.
Purpose can be as basic as learning how to live the life you love, living your passions, and doing things that bring you joy and satisfaction.
For seniors, purpose can mean taking care of a pet, planting a garden, or helping care for others in their family. All these activities give them a reason to get up each day, something to look forward to, and a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
When you are young, it is more difficult to find your purpose in life. The world is full of lots of distractions, pulling attention away from yourself, so connecting with your mind and beliefs is an essential first step.
The process of finding purpose and learning how to live the life you love is easier the older you get as you have more life experience.
Whatever you consider being your purpose, make sure it is larger than you and benefits someone or something else. When you think about nothing but yourself and your own needs all the time, you lack the balance in life that will help you be healthier and live longer. Purpose is about finding that balance and enjoying life.
Exercise to Find Purpose
The author of the Blue Zones study, Dan Buettner, has some tips for those looking to find their purpose in life. These suggestions can assist you adopting the outlook and perspective that can help you live a longer, happier life.
Buettner suggests you start with an internal inventory.
- Sit down for 20 minutes and write about your principles, morals, and ideals. Write about your talents and strengths.
- Remember to include not just what you are good at but also what you really love to do. Passion includes those things about which you are deeply curious.
- Consider things in life that you need to be truly happy and at peace with yourself.
After a while, you may start to notice a pattern or gain some clarity about where your heart lies. Look at what you wrote and consider what sticks out that can be used in contributing to the world you live in.
If this part feels a bit too sterile for you, then consider this additional step. After you’ve written it all down, leave it for a bit. Take some time by yourself to think. Whether you enjoy being outdoors in nature or want to sit on your back deck and watch the clouds roll past, take a day to spend some time on your own.
The things you wrote about will percolate in your mind, and at some point, you may notice a strong feeling start to emerge.
This type of meditation can help you clear away all the other things in your mind and focus on your true intent. You will likely notice a clarity of purpose that comes from this exercise that can guide you toward your next steps.
Next, create a purpose statement, whether you choose to write it down. This is your goal or mission. It should be actionable and something you can really do, starting soon.
It should be a way for you to share talents with others while also focusing on something in which you believe.
Next, Buettner says, find a way to put those skills into action. Make plans to do something with your newfound focus. Find one way to give back or make a difference in your community, neighbourhood, or family.
Set clear goals about what you’d like to do next and adjust your plans as you learn more and gain new focus. But, don’t stop working toward your new goal.
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Find someone who will support you in your plan for purpose. Whether it’s a spouse, partner, friend, family member, or colleague, find someone you can talk to about your purpose how to live the life you love. They can help keep you motivated and encourage you when you experience setbacks.
Other Strategies For Finding Purpose
Whether you are still young and exploring your life’s purpose, are older and still trying to find your path, or are questioning your choices and ready for a new challenge in life, defining your purpose and learning how to live the life you love is about taking action. The steps outlined above are a rational and methodical plan for helping you to identify your purpose, but there are other ways, too.
Follow your own heart. Your inner guidance system will tell you where you need to go. You just have to be sure you are listening. Sometimes, you must work hard to remove the noise and distractions in your life to hear that voice. Take some time just for yourself.
Think about when you have been truly happy. What brings you the most joy in the world? Make a list or all the things in life that bring you happiness and look for patterns. Are they moments when you were leading others to find their calling, times you worked with children, opportunities to make others laugh? What has stoked your passion throughout your life?
Try doing something. Sometimes, though, just thinking about it isn’t going to get you there. Take the leap and get busy. Decide on something you think might be meaningful for you, and just dive in. It may not be the very best fit after a time, but at least you will know what you liked and disliked about the work. And who knows, maybe you’ll discover something about yourself you never knew?
Finally, lose the idea that there is just one purpose for you in life. There are likely many ways you can feel fulfilled and active. Don’t worry so much about finding the one purpose and just focus on finding a purpose. Its all part of learning how to live the life you love.
This will take some of the pressure off from making a decision and leave you free to try something, even if you are not totally sure where it will lead.
Learning how to live the life you love is an ongoing mission that you can use for your entire life because at different stages of your life, you will want different things.