Health-enhancer: sense of purpose

Expert insight:

Having a strong sense of purpose may increase parasympathetic activity in the brain, helping you feel more relaxed in the long term, explains study author Dilip Jeste, MD, director of the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at University of California, San Diego.

That said, the search can lead to chronic stress if it becomes desperate or frustrating, Jeste explains. This can happen when you’re chasing an unrealistic purpose (say, trying to be an elite when you’re a middle-of-the-pack runner) or when you turn it into an urgent chase (by setting a deadline, for example).

The bottom line:

With time and experience, your sense of purpose in different arenas of life will solidify, Jeste says. Make the process more enjoyable by setting non-zero sum goals and recognizing that the pursuit may take a few months or years.