Stress is more than a feeling or state of mind. It is a physical condition, a neurochemical reaction designed to promote fight, flight, and basic survival.
On the other hand, prolonged stress can have the opposite effect. Ongoing stress without relief creates ongoing inflammation in the body. Long-term Inflammation is associated with a host of ills, such as heart disease and arthritis. Some argue that virtually all disease is caused by inflammation, since it interferes with the effectiveness of the immune system.
Here we are again, finding mental health and physical wellbeing closely intertwined. We can’t avoid stress in life. But we may be able to do something about stress-induced inflammation. There is some indication that feeling connected to a sense of purpose in life can reduce such inflammation.
How do we find purpose in day to day existence? So much of it can be mundane and repetitive, pursued only to make a buck, or to meet commitments that are not always personally fulfilling.
Those employed in a field they find rewarding are lucky indeed. But the rest of us can take comfort. Purpose is more than a job, or role in society:
- It is from the inside out, about finding personal meaning in how we relate to the world.
- It is about acknowledging our inner spark that drives interest and curiosity.
- It is about doing or thinking about something in novel ways.
- It is about finding aliveness and pleasure in what we are already doing.
Start with a routine activity, like the obligatory walking of the dog. Immerse yourself in your surroundings – the greenness of the grass, the smell of morning, the chirping birds, the solidness of the earth beneath your feet. What detail interests you, excites you, comforts you, gives you reason to wonder? What questions do you have about that which has always been there, but become lost in the drive toward the carrot at the end of the stick?
Purpose is that place where we feel as one with the world. Rejoice – that place awaits you.
For more about purpose and physical wellbeing, see “Be Happy – Your Genes May Thank You For It” from the UCLA Newsroom.