Friday, June 6, 2014

Living on purpose: Very robust predictor of health and wellness

NY Times      My late father had a longtime friend, a retired kosher butcher, who lived down the hall in their South Jersey apartment building. Past 90, Manny was older and frailer than my father; he leaned on a cane and could barely see well enough to recognize faces. But every morning, and again in late afternoon, he walked through my dad’s unlocked front door to be sure he was all right and to kibitz a bit.

Manny made the rounds, also looking in on several other aged residents in their so-called N.O.R.C. (naturally occurring retirement community). Unless he was ill himself, he never missed a day.

Manny’s regular reconnaissance missions come to mind when I read about purpose, which is one of those things we recognize without quite knowing how to define. To psychologists, “purpose reflects a commitment to broader life goals that helps organize your day to day activities,” Patrick Hill, a psychologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, told me in an interview.[...]

It turns out that purpose is, on many counts, a good thing to have, long associated with satisfaction and happiness, better physical functioning, even better sleep. “It’s a very robust predictor of health and wellness in old age,” said Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago. [...]


  1. Fascinating stuff that many readers may assume to be of only passing interest, but which may actually hold the key to may of contemporary Chareidi society's burning issues.

    Purpose in life is a foundational concept in Judaism. Sense of purpose is derived from a very clear and simple concept: We feel a tremendous sense of value from the realization that the Almighty King of the Universe derives satisfaction from our service. This feeling is greatly magnified by the clear-headed knowledge of our inherent weakness and insignificance in the physical sense.

    Here's how the ספר העיקרים שער ג' פרק ה' explains it:
    המשל בזה, במי שיחשוק מלך מהמלכים ובא לפניו וקיבלו המלך לעבודתו כי זה בלי ספק תכלית הצלחתו וכל טובו והדרו בהיותו עבד מקובל לפני המלך, ולזה יעבוד עבודתו בזריזות גדולה.

    The key question is: Do we REALLY feel a purpose in life? I stress the word REALLY - because both Chazal & good researcher note that it's not the positive THOUGHT that is therapeutic - only the actual EMOTION. In other words, this isn't something "fakeable", because "Fake it 'till you make it" doesn't help ... at all.

    Here's how the NYT quotes Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson about trying to "fake it":

    "Dr. Fredrickson, whose book “Positivity” was published this year, differentiates between positive thinking and positive emotion. “Positive thinking can sometimes lead to positive emotion, but it won’t always,” she said. “It’s like the difference between wearing a T-shirt that says ‘Life is Good’ and actually feeling deep in your bones grateful for your current circumstances.” With that in mind, she cautions that the idea of “fake it till you make it” can actually be harmful to one’s health. “What my research shows is that those insincere positive emotions — telling yourself ‘I feel good’ when you don’t — is toxic and actually more harmful than negative emotions.
    We need to become more sophisticated about what is real and what is fake
    within people’s attempts to be positive.”

    Source: @

    I think that a positive community-wide shift towards feeling a real,
    authentic sense of purpose would work wonders in so many ways, in
    relation to so many contemporary issues, whether:

    Some Examples:

    The current at-risk crises,

    Breakdown in Sholom Bayis,

    Daily dose of Chilul Hashem reported in the news.
    etc. etc.

    A lot can be said about WHY we have a hard time FEELING a sense of purpose on an ongoing basis, although we all purportedly BELIEVE in our positive purpose in life. My puny blog comment won't do justice to this monumentally important subject.

    No doubt that it would be worth expending much effort on understanding the missing links & re-mediating them.

    PS: I think one especially fascinating fact noted in the article is that autopsies of many purposeful subjects showed the physical symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, but they never developed the symptoms. The apparent discrepancy between pathologic changes in the brain normally associated with aging and disease is called "reserve". One paper trying to explain this phenomenon - but missing the connection to "purpose", is at Neuroimag Clin N Am 22 (2012) 99–105 doi:10.1016/j.nic.2011.11.006.

  2. Nice Post you have shared here thanks for sharing and keep posting and keep going on.


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