“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”Mark Twain
Let’s go for the big idea and talk about your life purpose. Do you have any idea as to what makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning and joyfully start your day? Is there something you are passionate about? The benefits of life purpose are BIG! It is a “key component of psychological wellbeing, finding meaning in what you do and who you are and leading a goal-directed life,” (Mercola, 2015).
Recognizing Passion and Purpose
Recognizing your passion and purpose is life-changing. The Stanford Longevity Project, spanning 80 years, found that staying productive and having a sense of purpose promoted a longer life. They referred to this state as "conscientiousness". Conscientious people take better care of themselves, make healthier choices and work in jobs they love, which results in reduced stress levels and overall higher contentment with their lives. They tend to regard their work as having purpose.
“It is not enough to have lived.We should be determined to live for something.” - Winston S. Churchill
The Effect of Life Purpose on Your Brain
All of these health benefits should be evidence enough to support life purpose – but what affect does this have on the brain? Well, life purpose has a huge effect on your brain! (You probably guessed that by now). Scientists at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center found, through autopsies of 246 people (out of 1400 people in the study), that those “who exhibited very different levels of cognitive decline often showed similar levels of damage from Alzheimer’s. The brains that functioned better it turned out – belonged to people who had indicated more purpose in life over the course of the study” (Applewhite, 2015).
In brain-speak: having a goal in life actually affects the cellular activity in the brain (neuroplasticity, neurogenesis). Plaques and tangles still form, but having a goal continues to build cognitive reserve (extra brain cells and connections). And, the stronger the purpose, the more resilient the brain is (I told you it was huge!).
What level are you on the life purpose ladder? Is your work your passion? Have you been retired for a while and are getting bored? Or do you feel that something is missing in your life? Do you go day-to-day, numb as to what to do all day? Well, that is the beauty of daydreaming! You can discover what you would love to do – without any judgments.
Subconsciously, we already know what our passion is. Our conscious brain sends up red flags and causes us to fear something new. Don’t believe that you need to listen to your conscious brain. Our purpose lies in the fact that we can jump into our current life with both feet and engage in what we are doing here and now. It is a mindfulness approach of appreciating the moment you are in and living it fully.
Steps to Change Your Attitude About Your Life
What if your life is complicated and difficult? Change your brain and you can change your life. Here are some steps to help you change your attitude about your life:
Surround yourself with reminders, such as photos or mementoes, of happy times
Regularly express gratitude
Compliment people on things you like or appreciate about them
To actually change your brain, you need repetition and consistency.
The real purpose in life is to fully engage in your life.
You will find your passion as you direct your attention to living. Passion + daily activity = a purposeful life. Trust me, your life will never be the same – it will be so much better.
Patricia Faust, MGS is a gerontologist specializing in the issues of brain aging, brain health, brain function and dementia. She has a Masters in Gerontological Studies degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Patricia is certified as a brain health coach by Dr. Cynthia Green of Total Brain Health and received a certification in Neuroscience and Wellness through Dr. Sarah McKay and the Neuroscience Academy.
Patricia teaches, coaches and consults on issues of brain aging and brain health. Her newsletter, My Boomer Brain, has international readership. Patricia’s focus is to teach people the value of living a healthy brain lifestyle to prevent the onset of dementia. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.