A life with purpose is a happier life. Positive psychology looks at what how people flourish and asks what makes life worth living. One answer is a life of meaning and purpose leads to greater happiness. But how does purpose relate to a happy fulfilled life? And how can we develop and nurture a purposeful life?
Do you ever feel your life is ok and you’re generally happy but each day is the same? The same tasks and jobs to do such as waking the kids, getting ready for work, commuting in traffic, plowing through clients and paperwork, coming home, making dinner, and then cleaning up. In these responsibilities we can lose our joy. I know I get tired at times and question the value in what I do and some days are easier than others, depending on my mood or how tired I am.
To live with joy, we need to find meaning in the mundane and purpose in the stress. We need to understand our purpose and how to discover it.
In 2013, researchers at the University of Wisconsin investigated how purpose in life helps recovery from stressful events .
They found purpose in life builds resilience. This allows us to reorganise our thoughts around stressful situations and leads to better health. Purpose creates this cycle of health and resilience.
The researchers found, when we experience a negative event, two things happen. First, we have an initial emotional reaction (usually a negative one) and second, we go through emotional recovery. What interested me was having purpose in life helped people in the second stage of emotional recovery. So it’s ok and normal to have an initial reaction, but we can get through it and recover in a healthy way where we are less likely to become depressed or bitter. This is where purpose in life comes in.
Your emotions and feelings fluctuate, and so do mine. When we believe our life has purpose and we matter, this helps us to notice and appreciate beauty. We become satisfied with life, which helps bring stability to our emotions.
Imagine for a minute the ocean during a storm. The waves are choppy and violent. The water in the deep is calm and stable. Our moods show up on the surface. They move up and down. Purpose and meaning live in the deep and remain fixed. Emotions will come, and that’s ok, but how do we create purpose so we can be joyful and recover from hard times?
Purpose in life helps us to rebound from negative events, create goals in line with our strengths, and find meaning in the mundane.
Question: What could you do this week to define your purpose?
 Schaefer SM, Morozink Boylan J, van Reekum CM, Lapate RC, Norris CJ, et al (2013) Purpose In Life Predicts Better Emotional recovery from Negative Stimuli. PLOS ONE 8(11): e80329. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0080329
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I’m the creator of Minutes to Happy and your go-to counsellor and wellness coaching companion.
I’m here to guide you in becoming your bravest self (no matter what wellness worries and chronic health challenges are plonked in your path).