The Need for a Purpose in Life
Having a purpose in life - having goals and objectives that give life meaning and direction - is linked to many psychological and physical health benefits.
Purpose in life is an emotional need, as outlined on the Psychological Well-Being Scale. Having this need for purpose met, not only has psychological benefits in itself, such as a sense of achievement and personal growth; but can also help you to get other emotional needs met, such as connectedness to the wider community and giving and receiving attention, a core element of
which is positive relations with other people. And research conducted by Richard Leider of the University of Minnesota showed that having purpose in life improved relationships, including engagement with family and the wider community. A benefit of having a strong sense of purpose is that this can help you to be more resilient and deal better with life’s ups and downs, as outlined by Ed Diener of Illinois University, in his extensive research on the subject of well-being.
The health benefits of having a greater sense of purpose include an increased likelihood of healthy ageing, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke as shown by Kim of Michigan University; a significantly reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as shown by Patricia Boyle of Rush University; and an increased likelihood in all adult age groups of living longer as shown by Patrick Hill of Carlton University.
Given that having a sense of purpose is not only an emotional need which is important for one’s emotional health and wellbeing, but that it also can have an impact on one’s physical health; it is important to find a way of achieving this and to be motivated by engaging in activities that you enjoy. This is important throughout a person’s life but even more so at times of changes in circumstances, such as retirement; with the first year after retirement being one of the most vulnerable times in a person’s life. Having a sense of meaning and purpose in life can be achieved in many ways that involve engaging in rewarding behaviours eg learning or developing new skills and knowledge, either through work, academic pursuits, hobbies, sports etc; by being needed and by volunteering etc.
Mary Spierin MA, ADHP, Couns Psych Dip, SRN, RPN, SCM
Psychotherapist & Hypnotherapist at Solution Focused Therapy Dublin