Happiness is more than a feel-good emotion. Happiness, science is discovering, is actually surprisingly beneficial to our health and longevity.
Indeed, researchers have found that happiness contributes to lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, stronger immune system, improved mobility, and lower risks of developing a disability, to name but a few of the benefits.
Often, we think something must happen to us for us to feel happy. Your grandchild smiles at you, you are happy. Your coffee is particularly delicious, you are happy. You find that item you’ve been longing for on sale, you are happy. You have lunch with a friend, you are happy.
Find Your Purpose; Find Your Happiness
What we too often overlook are the ways we can increase our personal happiness without waiting on anyone or anything. One of the primary ways is to appreciate all that is in your world, your life and to be grateful.
Another is to be kind to others, whether they acknowledge your gesture or not. But one of the most powerful and most often neglected roads to happiness is a sense of purpose.
I have extensively researched and investigated happy, healthy individuals in their 70s, 80s, 90s, and 100s. Almost without exception, these people have a strong sense of purpose. It’s what keeps them firmly anchored in a desired present and future.
Too many of us are locked in our past.
Look Forward, Not Backward
A friend of mine recently lamented:
“When I imagined my future, I saw myself surrounded by my husband and three grown daughters and their families, being engaged in their lives on a daily basis. Instead of baby-sitting or helping with meals, or even celebrating holidays together, I am widowed and live far from my daughters.
Nothing turned out the way I thought it would. My daughters all live in different states. One is single and intends to stay childless forever, and the other two are far too busy to indulge in ‘quality time’ with me.
I’m bored, bumping around from one volunteer activity to another, not knowing what to do with myself. I’m too old to go back to work, even if I wanted to – which I don’t – yet I’m not ready to pack it all in. There’s nothing really wrong in my life, yet I’m so unhappy.”
My friend is locked in her past. Even her dream of a future was nothing more than an extension of her past. And yes, my friend suffers from all sorts of minor ailments, from cardiovascular issues to frequent colds, to mild depression.
None of them serious enough to alarm her doctors, but all of which point to the underlying cause – unhappiness.
How To Find Your Purpose
What would a sense of purpose look like? Almost anything: writing a novel, achieving an educational degree, learning a new language or instrument, volunteering regularly at a local hospital, running/walking a marathon, the list goes on.
The activity doesn’t matter. What matters is the passion with which you pursue it, and that it keeps you looking/moving forward into the future.
For many, that means setting a goal and then doing what it takes to reach that goal. Goals can be big or small; some people go for Guinness Book of Records goals, others for improving their gym workout one exercise at a time.
I’m into competitive Ballroom Dancing, not because I like to compete; I don’t really. What I love is the challenge of dancing just a little better this year than I did last year, and competitions give me something tangible to reach for by a certain date.
Just like preparing to run a marathon/walk-a-thon knowing that one must be ready by a certain date gives a true sense of purpose to all those workouts.
Find something you love, or something you’ve always wanted to try, and go for it. Set a goal, large or small, it matters not, and commit to it with all your heart. Let that be your purpose. The more you commit, the more your passion will grow, and with it – your happiness, health, and longevity.
What are you passionate about and how does it affect you emotionally and physically? How did you find your purpose? What have you always wanted to do, but were unwilling, for whatever reason, to try? Please share the truths of your heart with our wonderful community!