Finding Your Purpose Can Save Your Life

Want to live a longer, healthier life? A sense of purpose may be all you need.

It can be easy to get caught up in the motions of your daily activities. You get up, get dressed and head to work each day. Or maybe your morning consists of making your kids breakfast before shuffling them off to school. But why do you do these things? The answers may seem obvious, but it’s possible your sense of purpose, or the reason you wake up in the morning, stretches beyond these monotonous tasks.

According to Blue Zones’ Power 9 principles, knowing your sense of purpose can add up to seven years to your life. One 14-year study found that people with a greater sense of purpose had lower mortality rates, regardless of factors like race, age and employment status. The same study suggests a sense of purpose is linked to longevity in all people, young and old, so realizing your purpose early in life can be important. Another study of older adults, which considers a sense of purpose to be a component of well-being, also suggests purpose is a factor in increased survival.

If you’re looking to live a longer, healthier life, start by taking the RealAge Test, which measures the age of your body—based on family history and lifestyle factors. If your RealAge is lower than your biological age, you’re on the right track. If it’s higher, there are ways to get healthy again. Get personalized recommendations for lowering your RealAge, which might include eating more legumes and adding more movement to your day.     

In addition to adding years to your life, knowing your sense of purpose is beneficial in other aspects of life, as well.       

Other benefits of purpose 

  • Cope with illness and diagnosis: Receiving a diagnosis can be scary, but rediscovering your purpose may help you (and your loved ones) work through this feeling. The physical aspects of healing are typically given the highest priority, but mental and spiritual health are important, too. “Awareness of purpose” is one way to describe spirituality, which can help relieve symptoms of depression.  
  • Improve heart health: Risk factors for heart disease include obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but could this list also include a lack of purpose in life? One study suggests men who have a strong sense of purpose are at less of a risk of heart disease-related death than those who don’t. A review analyzing 10 studies suggests a high sense of life purpose reduced participants’ risk of cardiovascular events.    
  • Strengthen your brain: A sense of purpose may protect your brain from disease. One study of more than 900 older adults suggested people with a low sense of purpose were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those with a strong sense of purpose, over a seven year period. The same study suggests a slower rate of cognitive decline and a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment for those with a strong sense of purpose.  
  • Get better sleep: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of Americans don’t get the recommended seven hours of shuteye on a regular basis. Before you reach for the sleeping pills or down a glass of warm milk, there may be a solution to your restless nights. Results from a July 2017 study of more than 800 adults over the age of 60 published in Sleep Science and Practice suggest those with a sense of purpose have better sleep quality. There’s more: High levels of purpose were associated with lower rates of sleep-related conditions. Adults with purpose were 63 percent less likely to experience symptoms of sleep apnea and 52 percent less likely to have restless legs syndrome.  

Knowing your purpose, and what makes you most happy and fulfilled in life, allows you to surround yourself with communities that most empower this purpose.

Find your purpose

  • Think honestly about what you love to do
  • Decide what skills or activity you’re best at
  • Determine what you want your legacy to be
  • Meditation and reflection may help determine purpose
  • Set a specific goal to accomplish
  • Remember that your purpose can change

Finding your purpose is often the easy part—acting on this purpose can be much more difficult. A daily verbal or written reminder—like a mantra—may help propel you to fulfill your sense of purpose.