Purpose can be thought of as an overall life goal or intention based on personal interests and values. It’s something that many purpose-driven people say they feel called to do by something greater than themselves.
While the obvious benefit of having a sense of purpose is more fulfillment in life, there are actually a lot more positive aspects. Here’s what science has to say about finding your purpose, and living it.
1. You’re less likely to care about social media if you have a strong sense of purpose.
It’s no surprise that those who have lower levels of self-esteem tend to feel better about themselves if they get a lot of likes on their Facebook posts and worse if they don’t get many at all. A recent study found that Facebook users who have a sense of purpose (a.k.a. those who felt like what they do is worthwhile) weren’t as fazed by the level of interaction they received on their own Facebook posts. The researchers suspect that these goal-oriented users are less likely to be affected by the likes they receive in the present because they’re more focused on working toward things they plan to achieve in the future.
2. Having a sense of purpose helps you live longer.
According to one particular study, the physical health benefits of living your purpose is comparable to diet and exercise — it’s never too late to start, and the earlier in life that you do start, the earlier the longevity effects of it start to kick in. That’s right — finding and living your purpose can increase your lifespan. In examining 14 years worth of data from over 6,000 subjects, the researchers found that those who had died reported lower levels of purpose in life while those who reportedly had greater purpose in life had a decreased risk of death regardless of their age.
3. You may be able to withstand pain better when you have a sense of purpose.
It turns out that by having a sense of purpose, you literally get stronger at dealing with physical pain and discomfort. Research has shown that women who exhibited resilience and a strong sense of purpose in life were more capable of handling pain from heat and cold. This may be similar to the mental and physical strength that athletes are known for. They’re able to keep their minds calm and continue to push their bodies close to physical exhaustion — all because they’re living what they consider to be their purpose.
4. A strong sense of purpose might motivate you to value your health more.
If you feel like clean eating and physical exercise is more of a chore than a privilege, maybe you need to get clearer on your life purpose. In a study that was conducted on a group of European teenagers, those who reportedly had a greater sense of purpose were more likely to have healthier diets and regular exercise regimens. And in another related study of over 7,000 Americans, those who reported having greater life purpose were more likely to make better use of preventative healthcare and spent less time in the hospital compared to those with a lower sense of purpose.
5. You’ll have a healthier brain when you have a strong sense of purpose.
Add “find purpose” to the list of things you can do to improve your brain health. Researchhas suggested that people who have a lower sense of purpose in their lives could be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease later on in life compared to people who have a greater sense of purpose. People who rated themselves higher on the life purpose scale were found to have a 30-percent reduced risk of cognitive decline compared to people who rated themselves lower on the life purpose scale.
These benefits might sound great, but the unfortunate reality is that many people have no idea what their purpose is and are just as clueless about how to start looking for it. And there’s no exact formula for it either. The real key is to experiment with doing things that you like, maintain an open mind, and allow yourself to grow and learn.
Your purpose will continuously grow and change along with you as long as you’re alive. Everything you’re doing today is a stepping stone for what your purpose might look like years from now. Be grateful for that, and never sacrifice being yourself for the sake of approval from other people.