health

Want to live longer? All you need to do is this one (fairly) simple thing.

Image: iStock

Many of us spend years of our lives trying to figure out What It All Means and What Is My Purpose In Life.

It starts in childhood, when every second person you come into contact with demands to know what you “want to do when you grow up”. It doesn’t stop there. Even when you do grow up and you have a half-baked idea of what you were put on this earth to do, there’s always this little voice inside that continues to agonise over it. Just look at every single character in Girls.

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It’s stressful business, but apparently reaching that level of ‘eudaimonic wellbeing’ (a sense of purpose and meaning in life) is as good for your physical health as it is for your direction in life. Not to add to the pressure or anything.

Still waiting for your lightbulb moment? You're not alone.

According to a study recently presented at the American Heart Association’s EPI/Lifestyle 2015 Scientific Sessions, having a strong sense of purpose in life can decrease your risk of stroke and heart disease, and prolong your life.

Researchers from Mount Cinai Medical Centre looked at the findings of ten previous studies, which incorporated more than 137,000 participants. As Science Daily reports, the team concluded that a strong sense of meaning and direction in life, and feeling that life was worth living, was associated with a 23 per cent lower risk of death from any cause and a 19 per cent lower risk of heart attack, stroke, or need for a coronary artery bypass surgery.

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"As part of our overall health, each of us needs to ask ourselves the critical question of 'do I have a sense of purpose in my life?' If not, you need to work towards the important goal of obtaining one for your overall wellbeing," lead study author, preventive cardiologist Randy Cohen, said.

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That makes it sound so simple. (post continues after gallery)

According to author and entrepreneur Mark Manson, there are a series of questions — seven of them, specifically — that will lead you to your life's purpose. You can read them in full here, but the questions include, "Gun to the head, if you had to leave the house all day, every day, where would you go and what would you do?", "What makes you forget to eat?", and "If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?"

Deep stuff.

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If all this information is only serving to amplify your 'Oh God, who am I?!' crisis, try to remember that people don't always figure their lives out straight away. This is beautifully captured in the following statement, from a 1997 Chicago Tribute column by journalist Mary Schmich:

"Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't."

Everyone's different. Some people have their path in life sorted from the moment they can walk; others take a little longer to get there. That doesn't make their experience, or their chosen purpose, any less valid.

Do you know what your 'purpose in life' is? How did you know?

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