Purpose: Improving Physical and Emotional Heart Health
At Balanced Wellness, we believe that having a sense of purpose is at the heart of the matter. It is placed at the center of our wellness wheel. I was introduced to the concept of a wellness wheel years ago, correlating with the dimensions of wellness. Somewhere along the way, I connected the analogy of a flat tire with the wellness wheel. The analogy has morphed into the philosophy Balanced Wellness utilizes today – our sense of purpose and meaning in life (what some wellness wheels call spirituality) is the ‘hub’ of the wheel. The hub is the central part of the wheel and ensures the wheel rolls properly and smoothly. It is also the ‘connecting’ piece to the body. Purpose then would be central to our well-being and ensures that we strive to function. Purpose motivates us, focus’ us, and gives us a reason to continue to work toward our goals. Purpose is important in not only our overall well-being but also motivates people to strive for improved health in the other dimensions of well-being. Using a modified version of the original wellness wheel developed in 1976 by Dr. Bill Hettler Wellness Wheel, we identify the following dimensions of wellness: Physical, Social, Intellectual, Emotional, and Occupational (includes financial) with Spirituality placed at the center. Taking it to the full tire analogy, if one of the wheels is ‘flat’ we will not roll smoothly through life, we will falter as the flat portion hits the ground! Based on this analogy, without purpose and meaning, we will not be able to properly ‘function’ in life.
A strong purpose in life may promote improved physical and mental health and an improved quality of life. (Aliya Alimujiang, et al., 2019). Isn’t that what we are after? Quality AND quantity of life? Research also indicates those with a strong sense of purpose:
- engage in healthy behaviors
- have better health outcomes for
- sleep disturbances,
- stroke incidence,
- post-stroke quality of life,
- depression, and
The American Heart Association notes that “people with a stronger life purpose were less likely to die of any cause, and even less likely to die of heart, circulatory and blood conditions”. (What’s your sense of purpose? The answer may affect your health, 2019). We previously discussed chronic illness and ‘The Heart of the Matter’; noting that spirituality has been shown to reduce the risk of developing heart disease by 30%
There are several tests that can assess your well-being based on your sense of purpose in life.
The Purpose in Life (PIL) test, was developed by Crumbaugh and Maholick (1964) and based on Frankl’s (1959) theory of purpose in life. If you would like to take this quick 20 question test, Click Here. Your purpose in life score can be an indicator of motivation for you.
Life Attitude Profile, Reker and Peacock (1981) developed a multidimensional instrument for assessing attitudes towards life. This can be a crucial piece in how we deal with adverse physical and emotional stressors. The instrument includes 9 questions around purpose of life and 6 looking at desire to find meaning. (Reker & Peacock, 1981) Read the full article to view the questions.
Sense of Purpose Scale 2. And lastly, the most current instrument we will look at is the Sense of Purpose Scale 2 (SOPS-2), currently being validated and additional articles being written as of 2017. This scale takes it one step further and looks at “awareness of purpose, awakening to purpose, and altruistic purpose”. (Yukhymenko-Lescroart, Sharma, & Kang, 2016)
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Aliya Alimujiang, M., Ashley Wiensch, M., Jonathan Boss, M., Nancy L. Fleischer, P. M., Alison M. Mondul, P. M., Karen McLean, M. P., . . . Celeste Leigh Pearce, P. M. (2019). Association Between Life Purpose and Mortality Among US Adults Older Than 50 Years. JAMA Network Open, 2(5):e194270.
Barns-Zare, I. (2019, June 04). Psychology Today. Retrieved from Flourish and Thrive: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/flourish-and-thrive/201906/the-importance-having-sense-purpose
Reker, G. T., & Peacock, E. J. (1981). The Life Attitude Profile (LAP): A multidimensional Instrument for assessing attitudes toward life. Canad. J. Behav. Sci., 13(3).
What’s your sense of purpose? The answer may affect your health. (2019, October 08). Retrieved from American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/10/08/whats-your-sense-of-purpose-the-answer-may-affect-your-health
Yukhymenko-Lescroart, M., Sharma, G., & Kang, Z. (2016). Sense of Purpose Scale: Development and initial validation. Applied Developmental Science.