How a Sense of Purpose Can Help Your Health

From heart health to mental health to better sleep, here's how a sense of purpose can improve your well-being.

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You know that there are health benefits to eating well and exercising, both of which are factors you can measure: You can log your calories in a food journal and track your steps on a fitness app. But in our fast-paced, high-pressure world, it's easy to lose sight of that third factor of living a healthy life — a sense of purpose.

Purpose is hard to measure, and it's different for everyone. Finding your sense of purpose can be a long journey filled with self-reflection and tough challenges. But discovering that purpose is a key aspect in achieving overall wellness.

The Health Benefits of Having a Life Purpose
Having a sense of purpose helps give your life meaning. A purpose helps you determine your values, set goals and tackle challenges — and all of this can benefit your health.

Consider this: According to a study from Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine, having a sense of purpose may improve your heart health and lower your risk of stroke and heart attack.

A meta-analysis in Psychosomatic Medicine also shows a connection between a strong life purpose and a lower risk of cardiovascular events and death.

Research in Cerebrum corroborated these findings, and also found that young people who had a greater sense of purpose were less likely to be depressed than peers who weren't working toward a greater goal.

If you're looking to get more sleep, finding something you're passionate about may even improve your shut-eye. A study in Sleep Science and Practice says that finding meaning appears to improve sleep and lessen your chance of developing sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.

What's more, goal-orientation may help motivate people with diabetes to manage their blood sugar, notes a study in BMC Endocrine Disorders.

Tips to Find Your Purpose
Finding your life's purpose means you'll live happier and healthier, but you'll need to do some work. Putting yourself out there in the world is a great way to start.

Trying a new activity, such as signing up for a pottery class at a community center, and striking up a conversation with strangers at a coffee shop may be inspiring. You can also go back to school, volunteer at an animal shelter, or join a social or professional group to connect with like-minded individuals.