Living a healthy, purposeful life


Sometimes it feels like there is a theme to my life, because a certain topic–or variations on it–comes up over and over again in conversations, on the radio, in something I read, maybe on a TV talk show.

So lately that topic has been about healthy living, only it’s not so much focused on diet and exercise. The theme is that simple things like friendship and purpose are keys to healthy living. I am interested in an article I read that told me changes in lifestyle and outlook can affect longevity. Most of us are interested in living as long as possible, and as we think about that, we’re realizing that the choices we make each day are important.

One of those choices, according to this article, is to develop and maintain social connections. Now I hope I have always realized the value of my friends who have made life sweeter for me over the years, who have stepped up for me, who have made my life more fun. While I count my friends among my greatest blessings, I didn’t know that people with close friends are physically healthier and more likely to get plenty of sleep, eat healthy foods, maintain peace of mind and have less stress, engage in brain health activities, and take on new challenges or hobbies.

As I’ve said before, everyone wants to belong. And it turns out that everyone needs to belong.

Loneliness is the new smoking, as this article put it. Since we are all warned regularly of the dangers of smoking, such a statement is certainly something we can all understand. In fact, it is equally as bad as inhaling 15 cigarettes a day and can shave eight years off life expectancy.

Having a purpose in life is also important to health as we get older and a key factor in aging successfully, this article pointed out. One senior citizen I interviewed years ago called it “a reason to get up in the morning.” In his case, that reason was keeping his small town, main street business open as he had done for years, even though he was being eclipsed by the big box stores just down the road.

Volunteering might be your purpose, one that has all kinds of opportunities if you just look around a little bit until you find something that fits your needs and gives you a chance to contribute to something larger. You might even be stretching yourself and growing some, too.

It gets back to that old adage: when you give, you get. And you’re likely to enjoy a longer life, too.