Does Life Purpose Enhance Longevity?

This was the title of a blog post by Mark Sisson. And I was curious what he had to say about this.

So below are the highlights from the article followed by my thoughts.

Highlight 1
“Although the results are mixed, some studies show a significant increase in mortality in people who retire early”

Highlight 2
The other key aspect was that he recommended getting away from the hustle and bustle of our lives and escaping to the countryside and allowing solitude and nature to help us discover our purpose:

“Personally, I find there’s nothing more conducive to intuitive thinking than solo time outdoors (little surprise there, no?) – the farther away from civilization and other people the better. Don’t put the pressure on a single afternoon in the woods. Schedule a hike/climb/paddle/bike ride every weekend for, well, several weeks.”

I love this idea by Mark – but how many of us have the freedom to go away every weekend?

My Pennies Worth
Well, while we might not be able to get away every weekend, we can all look to connect with nature more in our lives and connect with our selves more. Most of us, if we are honest, can create a little time to ourselves to develop our health, our emotions, our reason for living, our purpose.

Connecting with nature
Who of us know what vegetables are in season when? Who of us know what health properties are attached to specific foods or herbs? Who of us walk bare foot in our gardens to physically connect with nature? Who of us deliberately take time out our day just to be present. I think this is really important. So many people have said to me they love being barefoot. For me there is something very primal, very organic about being barefoot. In fact there is evidence out there highlighting health benefits of being barefoot (perhaps the topic of a future post!)

Exercise: Escape to Paradise
Do this now. Get comfortable and close your eyes (after you have read what you need to do!). Imagine yourself in your favourite place. Make sure you include as much detail as possible. What can you see? What can you feel? What can you smell? Notice how relaxed you can make yourself if you just allow the mind and the body a little break. Next time you are in the car, stuck in traffic, don’t pick up the phone and check your e-mail, close your eyes, sit back and go somewhere special. Breathe.

What about life purpose?!
Can we categorically say that we need purpose in life to live longer? Of course not. Did we always have a purpose in life? My thoughts are that as a hunter gatherer our sole purpose was to survive and reproduce. But I think hunter gatherers would have been ‘one with nature’, living off the land all year round. They had much more of a connection with the earth than we do now.

So if purpose isn’t something we have always had why do some studies show the link? I think it is less about having a purpose and more about the way you view your purpose. Could it not be that for many, they felt their purpose in life was their work so when they left that competitive environment, there was suddenly a void. Perhaps they had been an important figure within the business that people looked up to and without this they felt they had lost their identity. Or perhaps they were part of a great team and just enjoyed spending time with their colleagues and when they left there was a slightly different sort of void as they didn’t have the same sort of relationships outside of work. This actually leads very nicely in to my next blog post which has been inspired by an article I read discussing the need to change our definition of success.

So do we need to have a purpose greater than our work if we plan on retiring at some point in our lives. Perhaps this is the key? There is nothing wrong with having a life purpose evolved around work but perhaps we need something else also. Do you view being a good friend, brother/sister, parent as a life purpose?

Or perhaps it is the stress that we can place on our purpose that causes a problem. If you are determined to fulfil your purpose, above all else, then what happens if you realise you are not going to achieve this?

In summary I think having a purpose is important, but more important than this is the perception you have of your purpose, and, the ability to see the bigger picture. Your life’s purpose shouldn’t dominate you, it shouldn’t define you. It can be part of who you are, a big part, but there is so much more out there to be enjoyed, to be discovered. So let’s not stress ourselves out about getting to this majestic destination so many of us are after. Be present and enjoy the journey.

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