This post is based on a post that originally appeared on ThisChairRocks.com.
It’s no mistake that a sense of purpose is a powerful anti-aging drug.
Purpose is something that humans are wired for. We live for purpose and die for purpose. So, a life without purpose can be a shorter, less healthier life.
Because purpose is a brain and body organizer. Purpose gives us direction – and direction gets the entire organism fired up.
Purpose, in essence, is a call to our greater self – a self bigger than just “me.”
We’ve known for quite a while that some people seem to escape cognitive decline well into their nineties and beyond. Intriguingly, the brains of these sharp olders often reveal the extensive abnormalities like the “plaques” and “tangles” seen in people with Alzheimer’s. We think it’s because they’ve built what scientists call “cognitive reserve.”
It seems that having a clear goal in life – and with that, a sense of purpose – creates a “cognitive reserve”, a resiliency to life’s endless challenges.
In other words, having a goal in life actually affects cellular activity in the brain. Plaques and tangles still form, but having a goal seems to increase the brain’s protective reserve. Not only that, the stronger the purpose, the more it adds to the reserve. The results held up even after the researchers controlled for differences in exercise levels, education, and other factors. Other studies link a sense of purpose not only to slower rates of cognitive decline but to lower rates of disability and death.
To me, this is simple. Purpose is meaning and meaning is life.
That being said, I live a life without purpose. And living free of purpose creates a sense of freedom – which I assert also extends life.
When we realize that we are not contained by the relentless pressures of society, but rather are free to create our own sense of purpose and meaning – this too creates a “cognitive reserve.”
And so does great pleasure, connection and depth.
If purpose is the cup that needs to be filled, perhaps we can fill the cup with openness, more pleasure, more freedom and more connection with people we choose to love.