5 Ways to Cultivate Your Purpose & Build Meaning into Your Everyday Life

Ever think about your purpose? Wonder how it helps your life? Why it matters? Builds energy? Helps you be more healthy? Having a life purpose can lower stress, enhance well-being, and increase cognition1,2. Lately, we have been hearing a lot about purpose in the psychology world. It has become a buzz word because it is so important to living our best lives.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Find Your Purpose

It is time to get serious about your purpose. Purpose is about finding something that matters to you and brings something good to the world2. A wise soul visiting my office told me finding purpose means:

“having some connection to hope and future impact. It’s about feelings of ability to make things happen. A sense of connection ‘a gift to somebody’. A need to socialize the experience and a recognition that the gift is in its authenticity and sincerity”. 

As you consider your purpose consider your contribution in relation to how committed you are to making things happen. Without a personal commitment to make something happen purpose is just a dream. The reason we want it to be personal is because when it has a personal underpinning, it becomes about making meaning for your life. Meaning is important to our psychological health. I can have a thing to do – stick the widget in the box – however if I find no personal connection to why it is important to get the widget in the box, it won’t have purpose for me, it’s just another task on my to do list. As you work, find the personal meaning in the tasks that need to be done. Then make sure they understand how this task relates to the larger whole. 

Having Purpose Helps Your Physical Health

A study done noting the relationship between a sense of purpose and declines in physical health found that older adults who had a sense of purpose had less physical decline in grip strength and walking speed2 . These are important because as we age our slower pace is linked to more disability and less quality of life. 

Fogel & Canahil found purpose helped us recover from stress1. Stress is something we all need a little of, however if we have too much for too long our physical system becomes inflamed. Inflammation wreaks havoc on our structures. It causes joint pain, brain fog, digestive issues, heart issues, and more. In their study, having life purpose was linked to a faster recovery from a stressful situation test. 

As we move through life, having purpose in our lives appears to help us handle the costs of too much stress. It was also noted in the studies above that those who had purpose reported more engagement in taking care of themselves and using proactive strategies like staying on top of routine health care needs2

Greater Than Me

Another component of purpose is the way purpose connects to something bigger than ourselves. If my goal doesn’t bring connection to others and offer a positive “gift” then I have just accomplished a goal. Purpose is like my goal on steroids. 

That’s why we see so many fundraisers to run a 5k for a cause. I could go out and run 3.2 miles any day. I could do it just because it makes me happy, gets me on the trail, out of bed, off the couch. However, most of us don’t, unless it’s helping another. Then we are all about 5am headlamp runs. When you consider how you are creating a sense of purpose for yourself, find the way the task or goal becomes service to something larger than you. 

Socialize It

If we want to inspire others to build and follow their own purpose we need to consider how we engage with others. Do we provide opportunities for those around us to hone their sense of belonging to our cause or project. Transformational leadership posits that we influence those we lead, and that this style of leadership enhances wellbeing in those who follow us4. Leadership doesn’t have to be a formal title, it can be found in our everyday living when we decide to engage with those around us. We have an opportunity to help others capture the benefits of purpose and drive more engagement in our communities.

Well-being definitions are broad and incorporate various aspects of physical and psychological health. They include a lot more than just the absence of disease. Transformational leadership is about influencing, inspiring, intellectually challenging, and honoring each person’s individuality with appreciation for what they bring to the team4 . Do you bring these items to those working with you? Live with? Hang out with?

Reflect on Your Strengths and Values

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To help you create a sense of purpose, consider where you have been. Remember, part of purpose is looking toward creating something positive in the future, having a common goal, that helps others or contributes something good to the whole. This means we have to know where we’ve been. There is an element of reflection that is needed when we consider creating purpose rather than just a task list. We want to assess what we are good at, what we’ve been able to do before, and then link our values and hopes into the project that creates a new future. 

5 Exercises to Help You Build Your Purpose and Cultivate Meaning

There are a few things to consider when working to develop a consistent focus building purpose into our lives.  Here’s a few fun ways to do this:

  1. Evaluate your values. There are many options for values inventories online. Here’s a good one to use. 
  1. Consider your future self. Visualize your future self and imagine sitting down to have a conversation with them. Ask them about what is important, what they were excited to have accomplished, and what they hope for. Let the future you impart wisdom to the today’s version. Listen and then set some goals to accomplish those aspirational aspects of yourself. 
  1. Learn emotional regulation skills. This is so important. It’s a skill we all recognize should be taught in kindergarten, however many of us only got the cliff notes. Cultivating emotional regulation and the ability to shift your focus from what isn’t working to what is working is an advanced skill and takes practice. You must hone your ability to recognize, label, and accurately act on your emotions as they present themselves. Emotions are just a part of your built in intelligence system, however most of us are limited in our ability to recognize and label. This impacts our ability to accurately act. As a result, shifting perception – which is an action – is limited to our narrow version of what is happening in our view of the moment. 
  1. Practice visualization and what is known as the miracle question or magic wand in Solution Focused therapies. This exercise asks you to visualize and report in detail your perfect day/situation/outcome/etc. In this exercise we get very specific about what you see, think, feel, and how you act. Step by step we walk through your prefect scenario and focus on what you want. A big piece of this exercise is how you feel. Do not skip over cultivating how you will feel during each step of the day. 
  1. Be of service. Get outside yourself and your goals. When you can figure out how you can contribute you’ll have a better sense of what the world needs and how you fit into the solution for problems. This allows you to hone your own skill set and offer all that you have already learned for the benefit of someone else. Here you get to recognize your strengths and review how you learned them. You can review your life to this point and assess where you went right, wrong, and what you learned. 

Consider the above and practice these exercises. They’ll give you a gold mine of options for find your next purpose. 

References 

1 – Fogelman, N., & Turhan, C. (2015). ‘Purpose in life’ as a psychosocial resource in healthy aging: An examination of cortisol baseline levels and response to the Trier Social Stress Test. Nature Partner Journals, Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, 1, 15006, doi:10.1038/npjamd.2015.6

2 – Kim, E. S., Karachi, I, Chen, Y., Kubzansky, L. D. (2017). Association between purpose in life and objective measures of physical function in older adults. JAMA Psychiatry, 74(10)l 1039-1045, doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.2145: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.2145, PMCID: PMC5710461,PMID: 28813554

3- Greater Good Magazine. Science based insights for a meaningful life. definition of purpose: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/purpose/definition#what-is-purpose

4 – Arnold, K. A., Turner, N., Barling, J., Kelloway, E. K., & McKee, M. C. (2007). Transformational leadership and psychological well-being: The mediating role of meaningful work. Journal of Occupational Health Pscyhology, 12(3), 193-203, DOI: 10.1037/1076-8998.12.3.193 

3 Ways to Give Your Body-Mind The Exercise it Needs

Hello, I am Dr Stacy Reuille-Dupont. I was an exercise scientist who turned into a clinical psychologist when I realized being healthy was about more than working out. Now I study how your body is changed by thought and emotion and how thought and emotion impact our physical systems. Here are some of the ways mental and physical health impact each other and 3 ways you can use exercise to optimize your health.

Photo Credit: Photo by Fitsum Admasu on Unsplash

For example your heart has its own electricalsystem that keeps it beating in rhythm, we strengthen it through cardiovascular exercise. This is things like running, biking, swimming, walking, anything you do with your big muscle groups for a period of time that makes your heart beat faster and breath rate go up. 

Equipment like treadmills, recumbent bikes, and elliptical machines are used to help people raise their heart rates indoors and get an effective cardiovascular workout done on limited time.

When we workout doing cardiovascular exercise we help our mood too. Our serotonin 2 endorphins, domaine, oxytocin, acetylcholine, all increase. These are the feel good hormones in our bodies. Doing just 2 – 30 minutes aerobic exercise sessions per week for at least 7 weeks is as good as taking a Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressant medication for depression3

These feel good hormones do more than just make us feel good, they also regulate other processes in our bodies and decrease inflammation throughout our physical system. This is important because inflammation 4 wreaks havoc on our tissues. It creates brain fog, digestive issues, joint pains, weight gain and makes us feel more stressed out. 

When we feel stressed out everything is harder. It’s harder to learn, our relationships are more difficult, often because we are more irritated, it is harder to relax, and harder to get excited about doing fun things, which is exactly what we need to do if we are going to feel better. So it’s a double whammy of struggle. 

When we feel stress we are feeling the increases of chemicals in our endocrine system. Specifically through what’s called the HPA-axis, this is our hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. They work together to shift us into high gear and stay alive through a threat. However if we don’t move those chemicals out of our system they keep us inflamed and don’t help our tissues relax. And our body mind can’t tell if the threat is really happening to us or just something we saw on TV or in our video game5. We feel it in our physical system and then we respond as though it is happening to us even if we are just watching it or playing a game. 

Exercise is also considered a stressor and it works with the HPA-axis 6 too, but it gives us a mechanism to metabolize and use up those chemicals as our muscles, heart, lungs, and bones are working to move faster, lift heavy things, and challenge our fitness levels. So when we move our bodies and challenge ourselves we are building a stronger physical and mental system that works together 7.

Another big way exercise helps us is through our breathing. When we workout we breathe harder. Our lungs are one of four organs that help us get toxins out of our bodies. Exhaling even helps us lose weight8

Breathing is directly tied to our nervous system. When we breathe in we impact our sympathetic system, this is our high energy creative doing and fight/flight side of our nervous system. As we breathe out we impact our parasympathetic nervous system side9. This is our rest, digest, stay, and play, creative inspiration, feel good side. We want to be here more. This is where we feel safe and connected to people around us and something larger than ourselves. This tells our brains we are ok and the world is ok. We don’t have to be afraid. We have help and support when we need it. All humans need these feelings. When we are here our bodies and minds work better. 

So getting enough exercise is really important in our overall health. It helps our bones and muscles get stronger, helps our heart and digestive systems work better, and helps our minds learn faster, our moods feel more positive, and increases our self-confidence. 

Here’s 3 exercises you can do help your body-mind get the workout it needs. 

Running – Running is great because it asks the large muscles of our body to move over time – also known as cardiovascular exercise. Plus it’s hard for most of us and creates a mental game we must play if we are going to keep with it. It teaches our body how to function more effectively and our minds how to stick with boring things. 

Strength training – Strength training is about challenging your muscles to be stronger than they are now. There are lots of ways we can build our strength. So we can usually find something where we don’t get too bored. We just have to pick lifting, pushing, pulling things that are just a little bit heavier than what can comfortably do now. However it’s hard to lift heavy things. This challenges our muscles, builds our bones, and helps our minds remember we can do hard things. 

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Yoga – Yoga asana or postures are known for its ability to help us regulate our nervous systems through repetitive movements linked to our breathing. Remember above I talked about how our breathing is tied to our nervous system? This is part of why yoga works so well. Plus it asks us to contract and lengthen our muscles in a rhythmic pattern that helps our muscles stretch and become stronger under stretch. This is important for our range of motion – how much we can move a joint on our body – and keeps us moving throughout our lifetime. Yoga teaches us to be present to each experience as it happens and to just witness it, let it go as it has happened, and move to the next moment. We do not have to hold onto our judgment, frustration, fear, or joy because things are always changing. Yoga teaches us that change is ok and that we can make it through any changes, good or bad.

If you have a healthy and developed nervous system and strong mind you can handle anything that comes your way. Even the hard stuff, the boring stuff, the wanted and the unwanted stuff. A solid nervous system helps you regulate your emotions better and helps us stay present to our experiences which make our relationships, confidence, and ability to impact our world better. 

Today think about how you can move your body and help control your mind using movement. Challenge yourself to do hard things, lift more, run / walk further, or stay present to your breath. Use your body to experience everything that comes your way today. 

What you do today, impacts what you can do tomorrow. Many won’t be willing to put the effort in today to have the life they want tomorrow. 

Be different. 

Be willing to do the hard work of creating the life you want. This is called living an embodied life. 


Want help incorporating these ideas into your mental and physical fitness routines? 

Check out our integrative clinic at Studiob.life 

We work with people online and in person to learn more about how you can live more embodied everyday, understand how you can cultivate good feelings through simple movements and breathing exercises, and look closer at the science behind what’s happening in your psychology and physiology? 


References: 

1 – Silverman, M. E., Grove, D., & Upshaw, C. B. (2006). Why does the heart beat? The discovery of the electrical system of the heart. Circulation, 133, 2775-2781. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.106.616771

2 – Peluso M. A. M., & Guerra de Andrade, L. H. S. (2005). Physical activity and mental health: The 

association between exercise and mood. Clinics, 60(1), 61-70.

3 – Wipfli, B., Landers, D., Nagoshi C., & Ringenbach, S. (2011). An examination of serotonin and psychological variables in the relationship between exercise and mental health. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 21, 474-481. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01049.x 

4 – Dandekar, A, Mendez, R, & Zhang K. (2015). Cross talk between ER stress, oxidative stress, and inflammation in health and disease. In Christine M. Oslowski (ed.), Stress Responses: Methods and Protocols, Methods in Molecular Biology, vol. 1292, (205-214). Springer Science+Business Media. DOI 10.1007/978-1-4939-2522-3_15

5 – Cunningham-Bussel, A. C., Root,  J.C., Butler, T., Tuescher, O., Pan, H., Epstein, J., Weisholtz, D., S., Pavony, M., Silverman, M. E., Goldstein, M., S.,  Altemus, M., Cloitre, M.,  LeDoux, J., McEwen, B., Stern, E., Silbersweig, D. (2009). Diurnal cortisol amplitude and fronto-limbic activity in response to stressful stimuli. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34(5), 694-704, ISSN 0306-4530, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.11.011.

6 – Vassilakopoulos, T., Zakynthinos, S., Roussos, C., & Economou, M. (1999). Strenuous resistive breathing induces proinflammatory cytokines and stimulates the HPA axis in humans. American Journal of Physiology, 277(4), R10103-R1019. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1999.277.4.R1013

7 – Cotman, C. W., Berchotold, N. C., & Christie, L-A. (2007). Exercise builds brain health: Key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation. TRENDS in Neurosciences, 30(9), 464-472. DOI:10.1016/j.tins.2007.06.011

8 – Meerman, R., & Brown, A. J. (2014). When somebody loses weight, where does the fat go? Gastroenterologocial Tracts. The BMJ, 349(7257), 1-3. doi: 10.1136/bmj.g7257

9 – Appelhans, B. M., & Luecken, L. J. (2006). Heart rate variability as an index of regulated emotional responding. Review of General Psychology (10)3, 229–240. doi: 10.1037/1089-2680.10.3.229

Fighting Addiction With Exercise

While recovery from addiction takes many different forms and can be accomplished with many different treatment methods …

Guest Post by: Constance Ray from Recoverywell.org

Photo from: Pixabay

While recovery from addiction takes many different forms and can be accomplished with many different treatment methods, physical fitness is one aspect of the process that benefits just about everyone. You are attempting to help your body recover from a form of abuse, so it only makes sense to get your body in the best shape possible. 

Here are a few tips on how to build and maintain a healthy fitness routine during recovery from addiction, courtesy of Stacy Reuille-Dupont, PhD.

What Your Body Needs

As your body is adjusting to life without drugs or alcohol, it is undergoing some intense changes. While the end result is positive, the symptoms of withdrawal can include shakiness, increased heart rate, sweating, high blood pressure anxiety and more. Exercise can be a great way to fight these symptoms to make the withdrawal bearable; it can also be a healthy routine to continue even after your treatment is complete.

Types of Exercise

There is no one particular type of exercise that works for everyone who is in addiction recovery. Experience Life notes the key is to find a few kinds of physical activity that you enjoy and that helps you get closer to reaching your goals. For some people, this will be lifting weights, for others it will be cardio, for others it will be a sport. Many people find it helpful to mix hard training with activities that are more fun, such as rock climbing, kayaking or water skiing. If you enjoy the exercise, you’re much more likely to stick with it long-term.

Other alternative coping methods such as meditation, yoga and swimming can also relieve stress and anxiety and help you avoid relapse as you continue your fight against addiction. 

Whatever activities you choose, you might find it helpful to apply some tech to your program. A fitness watch, for instance, can help you monitor your progress and help you set goals. There are also numerous apps available to help. Some are dedicated to single exercise types — like Strong for weightlifting — and some are lifestyle apps — like MyFitnessPal or Whoop, which coaches your diet and exercise program as a whole. 

Along those lines, incorporating a holistic approach to your recovery is wise. Addressing your diet and adding meditation, time in nature, and time for socializing with supportive family and friends to the mix is wise. By remembering all your mental, emotional and physical self-care needs, you can raise your defenses that much more, and minimize your exposure to triggers.

Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Recovery

As the Chicago Tribune asserts, staying active can benefit you in several ways as you fight substance abuse. It can reduce your stress, improve your amount and quality of sleep, increase your energy levels, protect you against disease and reduce your drive to smoke and seek drugs. It will also keep you busy as you try to find ways to fill your time so you’re not dwelling on old, destructive desires.

In addition, focusing on exercise and physical fitness can improve your mental and psychological health. Studies indicate that exercise can reduce depression, ease anxiety, improve your self-esteem and lift your general mood, which are all important in the fight against addiction. It’s an avenue to release stress from your body and leave you feeling calm and refreshed. 

Keep a Healthy Routine

Once you have found an exercise program or activity that works for you, do your best to get into a regular daily and weekly rhythm so exercise is just part of your recovery program. You want to get to the point where you don’t have to decide whether or not to exercise – the decision has already been made by the way you have set up your life. This routine will not cure your addiction on its own, but it will play a vital role.

No matter what type of addiction you are facing, recovery is a long road. One way to make the trip smoother is to include a regular exercise routine in your daily life. You’ll find the physical and mental benefits invaluable as you fight to return to normal life without substance abuse.

Connect with Stacy Reuille-Dupont for more ideas to encourage your health and well-being.  Get a free WHOOP strap and your first month free when you join with Stacy’s link

4 Ways to Relieve Household Stress While Self-Isolating

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have put lots of pressure on parents over the past couple of months, and while you have a bit more freedom to leave your home now, your options for activities are still rather limited. As you try to balance working from home with your kids hanging around and taking care of your other domestic responsibilities, you may struggle with rising tensions in your household. Here’s how to address a few potential sources of tension and create a happier environment within your home.

Guest Post By: Emma Grace Brown Emmagracebrown.com+emma@emmagracebrown.com

Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits

Has your family been neglecting exercise and healthy eating since you all began isolating? Practicing unhealthy habits can make you feel anxious, depressed, and irritable. It’s easier to manage household tensions when everyone is prioritizing their physical and mental health. Plus, focusing on fitness can be a fantastic way to release tension! Develop a solid workout routine, and choose exercises that the whole family can join in on.

It’s also important to clean up your diet. When you’re spending more time working out, it can be hard to find opportunities to cook, so Play Date Fitness recommends using an electric pressure cooker to concoct tasty, nutritious meals with little effort. 

Eliminate Fear

The connection between psychology and physical movement just can’t be ignored. When you feel fearful, it’s because your nervous system is in overdrive, and adrenaline is coursing through your body. Let’s face it – this has been a scary time, and your family may need to be proactive about addressing those fears. You may already know that exercising helps you maintain a more positive attitude, but what about slow, mindful movement? 

You can incorporate both meditation and yoga into your family fitness routines. These practices can help you relieve stress and process uncomfortable emotions. When you’re doing yoga with young children, Yogi Approved suggests doing poses together when possible – for example, you can pick up your toddler and rock them during tree pose! If you want to go further in this journey, you can also check in with therapist and wellness coach Stacey Reuille-Dupont, who offers telehealth services so you can connect from anywhere.

Indulge Your Sense of Adventure

Want to help your whole family become healthier and have fun while you’re doing it? If you’ve been cooped up indoors, it’s time to embrace the warm weather and get some fresh air. Head out the front door to enjoy some wellness-boosting outdoor activities together! After all, exercise and time in nature can perk you up, and everyone in your household probably needs to stretch their legs and blow off some steam. Activities like hiking, biking, running, and even rock climbing are great for people of all ages, and your kids may even discover a new favorite hobby during your outdoor excursions! 

No More Boredom

After spending such a long time isolated with your family, everyone in your household may be feeling a little bored – and you know that when your kids are bored, they’re more likely to get into squabbles! If you suspect that boredom is the cause of rising tensions in your household, it’s time to help your kids find some new hobbies. 

Both kids and adults might enjoy gaming together. If your family wants to get into gaming, you just need to make sure you have the right tools! For instance, if your children are interested in online multiplayer games like Fortnite, you’re going to need a strong connection to the internet that won’t drop while they’re playing. Companies like Verizon can set your household up with fiber optic connections, which allow for smoother gameplay and faster download speeds.

If you feel like everyone in your family has been on edge since the beginning of this pandemic, you can begin taking steps to ease these tensions. By prioritizing your health, making more time for outdoor activities, and leaning into mindfulness, you can embrace your time at home together and take advantage of self-isolation. 

Photo via Pexels

Kale, Chicken, Avacado, Mango, Green Onion Salad

Want something quick and easy that uses up some leftovers. Here’s a great salad you can make using left over protein from last night’s dinner.

I am not a great cook, I’m good when I want to be, but honestly my mind is usually somewhere else and following recipes is really, really hard for me. Any distraction – 3 kids, the dog, a friend, a flower – and boom, we are having “blackened” food again … usually without the Cajan part. So I started making my food simple. Really simple. I wanted healthy and easy.

Ingredients:

  • Kale – Torn
  • Chicken – I cooked an extra breast for dinner the night before
  • Mango – Chopped
  • Green Onions – Sliced
  • Avacado – Sliced or diced
  • Olive Oil – to dress
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

The Cooking Part …

Put all the pieces together in a bowl or on a plate and mix up. Voliá it’s ready to serve and eat.

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What to serve with …

As you can see I ate mine with some sparkling water. It also goes well as a side dish or without the chicken. I have put it alongside another protein source and eliminated the chicken to make it into a fresh-tasting side.

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