Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Contemplating one's life purpose is perhaps the biggest conversation we can have with ourselves. Or is it? For some, knowing their sense of purpose seems innate in that they have felt "called" to a certain life or vocation. For others, this becomes the source of much challenge, in some cases to the point of feeling lost which can lead to depression. According to the World Health Organization, "Depression is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease and affects people in all communities across the world. Today, depression is estimated to affect 350 million people. The World Mental Health Survey conducted in 17 countries found that on average about 1 in 20 people reported having an episode of depression in the previous year." (WHO 2012).
So, "Purpose" may in fact be the most fundamental aspect of health and well-being. Our Care Model at Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine is based on Five Pillars of Health & Wellness: Nutrition, Activity, Sleep, Resilience, and Purpose. Each pillar does not hold equal weight in importance when we take into account the WHO's focus on depression and its direct correlation to loss of purpose and meaning. When a person lacks a sense of purpose or meaning in their life it becomes more challenging to have the focus or energy to manage their stress, eat healthy, get adequate sleep, or have the motivation to be active. Purpose is what gives life meaning. It’s your reason for being; it’s what gets you up in the morning. Purpose is what provides the nourishment to persevere when things get tough.
If you struggle with defining your sense of purpose, there is another way to approach this most critical aspect to your health and well being. Rather than thinking about “having a purpose” think about "living purposefully." As Annie Dillard, American author, stated, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." One way to do this is by taking time to give gratitude for your life. This doesn’t mean being grateful for just the big things in life, but more importantly the daily things like having people in your life that support you, having the means to live the life you live, and the opportunities you have each day. The other way to live purposefully is to make an effort every day to do something for someone else. The feelings that arise in you just from taking the action to live purposefully will begin to feed your sense of purpose and meaning. Mahatma Gandhi reminds us, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."