Meaningful and Purposeful Engagement

Meaning in life can come from a several things- from cherished relationships, from work that feels worthwhile, from simple nature walks and even tranquil sunsets.

Throughout life most of the people seem to be driven and working hard to achieve their goals, which is often reflected in the fast paced lives that young adults lead. Retirement tends to slow down this pace and that is why it becomes essential for older adults to find things that will help them in finding meaning and purpose in their life.

Meaning in life is often defined as having a sense of self such that our actions, emotions and thoughts positively inspire us and those around us. Having meaning in life is associated with making some significant changes around us that make our lives worthwhile. After retirement, older adults often explore various activities and indulge in those that will help them advance in the golden years of their life.

Meaning in life is often discovered through narratives or stories. Researchers identified that the default mode network in the brain is responsible in identification of meaning in life through experiences.

Purpose on the other hand is more long term and is driven by motivation and in turn positively influences meaning in life. Purpose in life helps individuals direct their time and energy towards the goals that are congruent with their motives. Finding a purpose that makes life meaningful makes use of cognitive, emotional and motivational factors. It could be activities like painting, writing, gardening or helping family members and friends, participating in social and cultural events. Basically anything and everything that brings joy and gives a sense of satisfaction. Purpose seems to help people protect what is known as a cognitive reserve or cognitive resilience- the human brain’s ability to recover from trauma and protect against diseases.

This bidirectional relationship between purpose and meaning in life drives the psychological and emotional wellbeing of an individual. Emotional wellbeing plays a crucial role in healthy ageing. Activities that bring happiness and joy contribute to positive emotions bringing about a sense of purpose and meaning in life. There is something immensely satisfying in interacting with another human being. Purposeful engagement and meaning in life creates tenets to enhance socialization. Older adults with higher levels of purpose in life show more rapid recovery from negative stimulus provocation as compared to those with lower levels of purpose. Cognitive skills also escalate with purposeful engagement. Researchers found that adults who reported a greater sense of purpose in life also tended to score higher on tests of memory and executive functioning. Together these factors contribute to longevity.

Finding purpose and meaning gives vigour to ageing making individuals physically and mentally active. In older adults, the most important source of meaning in life is human relationships, especially the relationships with family members. People living in old age home generally derive meaning in life through their relationship with their caregivers. Other sources of meaning in life include exercise, leisure activities and anything that engages them and brings purpose in life. Cognitive stimulation in the forms of activities of auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory and gustatory stimulation improves mood and goes a long way in improving the purpose engagement in the elderly.

There are no set rules that will help one find meaning in life. Finding one’s purpose is a treasure that is obtained after exploration, helping an individual understand holistic body function improving their quality of life. Make the decision to start your search for meaning in life and everything that this life has to offer.

Authorship: Binita Vedak

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