Volunteers finding meaning together

7 March 2021 | Tags: Lifestyle, Mental Wellness

How Important is Life Meaning?

Viktor Frankl, neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, argued that the desire to find a sense of meaning is the primary motivational force in life.  His belief accorded with psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who had suggested that nothing in life has value unless it is meaningful.  

‘‘The least of things with a meaning is always worth more than the greatest of things without it.’’

Carl Jung, in Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933)

Meaning of life can therefore be regarded as a fundamental human drive, and one that people of all ages engage in their own search for.

There are multiple dimensions to meaning of life: having values, a sense of purpose, the pursuit and attainment of worthwhile goals, the ability to reconcile things that have happened in the past, and a belief in the order, coherence of one’s own existence.  A sense of meaning of life can arise from any number of sources, including personal relationships, work, hobbies, and religion.  Studies have demonstrated that people with well-developed social support systems are likely to have a stronger sense of meaning in life than those who do not maintain close ties with others.

What about Life Purpose?

Closely related to meaning is life purpose. “Purpose is an active expression of our values and our compassion for others — it makes us want to get up in the morning and add value to the world”, says Richard Leider, a foremost authority on living with purpose.  He continues:

“Purpose drives meaning. When you have a reason, an aim in life, you’re motivated to make things happen.”  

Leider describes the lack of purpose as “inner kill”, observing that it leaves people feeling lacklustre, disengaged, lethargic.

How Life Meaning & Purpose Affects Your Health

Research has found that having a stronger sense of meaning in life has multiple health benefits.   It is associated with more favourable self-ratings of health, and in improved health assessments over time. Additionally, it can serve as a powerful motivator for engaging in positive health behaviors – perhaps because it generates positive emotions such as satisfaction, fulfilment and happiness.  

Teacher showing garden to children
Finding meaning and purpose in your life will empower you and boost your health!

Similarly, a stronger purpose in life is associated with decreased mortality and with both physical and mental health and overall quality of life.  According to Leider’s findings, living a purposeful life is linked to many benefits beyond health – including higher everyday competence, higher socioeconomic status, being employed, and being married.  It is also strongly associated with social integration, and especially with relational quality.

OUR TIPS to Improve Your Heart Health Today

We embrace the Japanese concept of Ikigai, which can be translated as “something to live for, the joy and goal of living”. It can be described as having a sense of purpose in life, as well as being motivated. According to one study, “ikigai as described by Japanese usually means the feeling of accomplishment and fulfilment that follows when people pursue their passions.”

There is an inner power that comes when you actively choose to live “on purpose”; and this can propel you to make fundamental changes in your life so that you can enjoy the best possible health and fulfilment. 

Our recommendation is that you make a deliberate effort to find (or, to re-confirm) your purpose. Focus too on identifying what throws you off track in your daily life – this will help you stay present to the moments of meaning and purpose in your everyday life; and when you lose touch with these, to getting back on track with what matters most to you!

By Katrine Smith Tulloch-Reid

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