ABCs of Vital Aging: Purpose

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Last summer, I attended a wellness seminar, “How to be your own Health Hero,” sponsored by Cambridge Consulting Group, a local financial planning/wealth management company. Dr. Partha Nandi, author of the book, Ask Dr. Nandi (which is also the name of his syndicated television show) talked about the importance of being a #healthhero for our own life. 

My ears perked up when he talked about the first step to becoming your own #healthhero.  This most important first step is having a purpose.  I’m a big believer in that concept. Even as a young kid, I wondered why in the heck I’d been born. I couldn’t believe that I was simply put on this earth to just hang around.

In elementary school, my happy place, (it gave me the structure I didn’t have at home) my purpose was to get good grades. I started reading at 5, and soon discovered my second happy place: the library. For some reason, I believed my purpose was to read every book in the children’s section from A to Z. Much later in life, I expanded that purpose to become a lifelong learner.

But as I fumbled along through my turbulent teen and young adult years, my sense of purpose got lost. I was depressed, anxious, and often made bad decisions. I didn’t like myself. I lacked self-confidence. I was pretty much a wreck. Yet deep inside, I always wanted to ‘do something,’ and ‘be somebody.’ 

Fast forward many years; I’ve finally taken back my power by letting go of the emotional baggage that held me back for most of my life. And in the process, discovered my purpose, which was there all along: writing. My love of the written word has always been with me. Over the years, I also discovered that I loved learning about aging, health, and wellness. This led me to create this blog, write wellness articles in my workplace and online, and finally write a book, The Art of Sane Aging for Women

So what’s the big deal about having a purpose? 

Well, do you want to live longer? Having a purpose in life is one of the “power nine,” the 9 lessons Dan Buettner described after identifying the Blue Zones of the world; places where people regularly live to be 100 or more.  Other research has shown that having a purpose can help protect against heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Having a purpose may even help us maintain our physical function as we age, which is pretty cool. I don’t know about you, but I want to live as independently as I can for a long time!

In his book, Dr. Nandi talked about the emotional and psychological benefits of having a purpose. Having a purpose – a reason to get up in the morning – can help fight off anxiety and depression and increases our resilience.  This, in turn, helps us face life’s challenges with a stronger sense of hopefulness and energy. I can vouch for that.  Having a purpose has given meaning to my life and helped me achieve peace of mind. Having a purpose makes living more fun!

What having a purpose has done for me: 

  • It helped build my self-confidence
  • It helped me step out of my comfort zone
  • It helped me overcome the low-level depression I lived with for much of my life
  • It helped my focus and concentration
  • It helped me to stop wasting time on meaningless activities
  • It helped me overcome new challenges, which contributes to my goal of lifelong learning
  • It helped me become more self-disciplined, which in turn, helped me reach my writing goals. 

Have you found your purpose in life?  What has it done for your health and well-being?  

Resources for further reading:

Buettner, Dan. November 2005. “The Secrets of a Long Life.” National Geographic.

How a Sense of Purpose Can Help You Live LongerPsychology Today

A Sense of Awe and Life Purpose Increases Your Mental HealthPsychology Today 

©2017 – 2018 Vital Aging for Women

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