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Finding New Purpose Through Life's Changes

Life transitions such as children leaving the home, retirement, disease, or caring for aging parents, can leave us feeling lost without a clear purpose or direction which can be both shocking and difficult to handle. As a result of these changes, many people start to lack stamina, motivation, energy and certain physical changes that at one point didn’t exist, or at least didn’t hinder your daily function, start to become more prominent.

Finding yourself without purpose can drain you of confidence and leave you feeling depressed, anxious, and older in every way. The routine of getting up and having a “to do” list, like someone heading off to work or childrearing, keeps you physically and mentally fit. In addition, positive interactions with peers and regular setting and achievement of goals prevents the potentially devastating results of living a purposeless life.


Those who lose their spark after a major life transition tend to have decreased immune function, loss of restorative restful sleep, and weight gain from poor diet and lack of physical activity. It’s possible to suffer increased pain from degenerating and underutilized joints, impaired memory from lack of stimulation, hypertension, anxiety and depression.


Before your body and psyche lose their spirited vitality, take a look at some steps to regain your footing and find new purpose in your life:


Attend to Your Health - Your first line of defense is your physical health. Make sure you are getting enough rest and nutrients. Quality sleep is imperative but try not to sleep during the day and keep a regular sleep schedule and routine. As your body ages, vitamins and nutrients become even more important for overall wellbeing, brain health and immune function. A healthy diet, like sleep, will help tissues repair more quickly, keep your energy and stamina in check, and preserve a strong immune system.  Finally, intentionally exercise every day. Lack of purpose can cause depression which leads to a sedentary lifestyle and exercise creates endorphins that help your mood; it likewise improves sleep, prevents injuries and falls, and keeps your body supple and strong. Attend a new fitness class, go on walks with your friends or your spouse or return to old favorites like hula-hooping and skipping rope.

Grieve Fully - You might be telling yourself to tough it out, the melancholy mood will change if you push it aside but you need to be wary of the “big kids don’t cry” trap. Avoid some psychological distress by allowing yourself to grieve the old you and the life you once had. Sadness, anger and worry are natural characteristics of transition and if you evade the process of grief, it will haunt you and keep you from moving forward into your new way of life. People who are grieving can become isolated, lose interest in activities, and judge themselves for feeling frustrated or depressed which can lead to a pattern that is difficult to unwind. Give yourself permission and time to be sad and angry while simultaneously and creatively shifting your lifestyle.


Recreate Yourself - As you move through grief, you begin to accept that you are indeed older and life is very different but you must remember that you are also wiser. Life experience gives you a fantastic foundation from which to recreate yourself. There are a few important questions to ask yourself when you are trying to improve your new life. What didn’t you have time for when you were too busy? How can you restart a hobby that you once enjoyed? What new activities might you pursue that once didn’t interest you at all? Taking on complex tasks supports your continued healthy mobility and function and also maintains your mental fitness. Playing strategic games like Bridge, or learning to play an instrument are a great start. More importantly, keep yourself involved in projects that require planning, execution, analysis and delivery such as sewing a quilt, building a playhouse for the grandchildren, or organizing volunteer events.


Laugh - Have you ever noticed how children bounce back so quickly from injury or hurt? Resilience can be attributed to several factors, but one very controllable is laughter. The research varies greatly, but studies show that children laugh nearly 30 to 60 times more than adults. Laughter reduces stress hormones that cause weight gain and negatively impact sleep while increasing health-enhancing hormones and infection-fighting antibodies. When you laugh, blood flow to the heart increases which improves heart and overall circulatory health; and the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated relaxing muscles, releasing tension and inflammation, and improving mood and positive outlook. Do anything you can to laugh as much as possible every single day. Rent funny movies, watch videos online, visit your local comedy club, recycle silly jokes, or even smile at yourself in the mirror until you are laughing at your own goofy image.


Write and Pursue Your Bucket List - Take out a piece of paper, or several, and make a list of all of the things you would like to accomplish no matter how silly or unrealistic. Include in your list relationships you’d like to mend and friends and family connections you would like to rebuild. Once complete, prioritize the list according to importance of each item and time commitment by asking yourself which goals must be achieved and whether or not the task is a long-term complex process or a short-term simple undertaking. Next, choose a long-term goal and divide it into smaller manageable steps. Create a weekly list of goals to complete to include the steps to achieving your long-term goal and 2-3 simple tasks from your short-term list and commit to working through items and portions of your bucket list every single day.  As you accomplish even the smallest of tasks you will feel a strong sense of purpose and confidence.   Continue to update and revisit your bucket list discarding what no longer serves your wellness and adding new and interesting goals. You are certain to evolve, recreating a fulfilled purposeful new you.