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  • Colleen K. Broersma

“A reflection a day - keeps the doctor away.”

Emerging research is indicating that having a purpose in life is associated with increased happiness, improved health and longevity. Researcher Dr. Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and an assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and her colleagues studied 1,238 older adults. They found that those who had a weak purpose or no purpose in life were 2.4 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those who had a strong purpose in life. In addition they found that having a greater sense of purpose was associated with a reduced heart attack risk of almost 30 percent, as well as a 1.5-fold increased likelihood of remaining heart attack-free, compared to low scorers.

Having a Purpose Leads to Better Health

Having a sense of purpose is thought to increase motivation to behave in ways consistent with one's purpose. Although few studies have examined the extent to which purpose is related to engagement in health-promoting behaviors, results of a meta-analysis showed that a higher level of purpose in life was associated with better health, everyday competence, social integration, participation in the labor force, and socioeconomic status among middle-aged and older persons. Plus, purpose in life is related to aspects of psychological health, including happiness, satisfaction, personal growth, better sleep and fewer depressive symptoms. Those with stronger purpose appear to be more resilient and goal oriented.

A Tool For Conquering Poor Health Behaviors

Vic Strecher, Director for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, has a fascination with life purpose after the loss of his 19 year old daughter Julia. He believes that crisis is a catalyst for change and has written a graphic novel based on new thinking in the field called self-affirmation theory. The theory explores how the process of affirming our fundamental beliefs or core values reduces defensiveness which in turn opens the door for changing behavior. You can find his book On Purpose and download the app to help you identify your own meaningful purpose in life and track five key behavioral factors which can enhance or hinder your ability to pursue, and achieve, your goals.

In the meantime take a moment to reflect on this: “Health is a life lived well and fully, a life involved with other people, and with self-exploration of the emotions, the mind, the body and the spirit.” ~ Kenneth R. Pelletier, Sound Body, Sound Mind

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