Cop­ing nat­u­rally

Why mean­ing and pur­pose mat­ter

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE -

As par­ents or grand­par­ents, it may be hard for us to be­lieve that bore­dom in a small child was not put there by na­ture sim­ply to an­noy us. Bore­dom is na­ture’s way of push­ing chil­dren to learn, and en­cour­ag­ing them to be stretched in ways that give a sense of grow­ing. As they grow, they mas­ter knowl­edge and skills that en­able them to cope when life sends chal­lenges their way. This need for mean­ing and pur­pose con­tin­ues be­yond child­hood, form­ing the warp and weft of our lives.

Lack of mean­ing and pur­pose of­ten voices it­self when peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence de­pres­sion. “I can’t see why I should bother . . . what’s the point in go­ing on?” Or, even more con­cern­ing, “The world would be bet­ter off with­out me.” If we re­ally lis­ten, we can hear that a per­son has lost their con­nec­tion to these vi­tal in­gre­di­ents in their life. But when peo­ple have mean­ing and pur­pose it helps them to make sense of ad­ver­si­ties like ac­ci­dents, in­juries, be­reave­ments and ill­ness – things which never seem fair, but which we all face from time to time. Gain­ing knowl­edge and skills - per­haps a pro­fes­sional com­pe­tency, art or craft, sport­ing skills, a lan­guage or topic of study - can be a huge source of mean­ing and pur­pose. When some­one gains un­der­stand­ing or man­ages to mas­ter a new skill and ex­claims “I see what you mean!” they have lit­er­ally seen the con­nec­tion be­tween what they knew be­fore and the new learn­ing, as if they had fresh eyes.

We are all liv­ing longer, so plan­ning how to get mean­ing and pur­pose into our lives post re­tire­ment, or when chil­dren grow up, move away and thrive in­de­pen­dently, can be­come more of a chal­lenge. If peo­ple no longer feel needed, it can tip them into de­pres­sion. Seek­ing out op­por­tu­ni­ties to make a con­tri­bu­tion to the needs of oth­ers like vol­un­teer­ing or sup­port­ing wor­thy causes, helps to pre­pare for this pos­si­bil­ity.

Re­search con­firms that when peo­ple have mean­ing and pur­pose in their lives, they are more re­silient to stress­ful events that hap­pen in life, and feel more ful­filled in gen­eral.

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