6 Underestimated Drivers of Well-Being
Research shows these psychospiritual forces may be critically important for decreasing risk of illness and death and boosting overall health
When I was in graduate school studying world religion, philosophy, and psychology, I became intrigued by what, if anything, undergirds all the wisdom traditions. I had no interest in diluting them or melting them into one. I was more curious about what was beneath belief. After much research, I arrived at what I termed the Six Fundamental Human Desires. Taken together, they are what all the traditions, whether spiritual or secular, each in their own way, using their own language, care about and try to make real for people’s lives.
It turns out these desires can positively affect the body and mind as much as the spirit.
Meaning helps us to make sense of life and find significance in life. It satisfies our desire to have a life filled with understanding, awareness, peace, and satisfaction. Meaning helps us to see how we fit into the world, and that greatly shapes the stories we live by. Meaning gives us the sense that we, others, and certain things in life matter, which helps us to craft a rich and rewarding existence. Meaning gives us confidence that within each moment or each situation, there is something important and worthwhile that can orient us, carry us forward, and help us to be well.
Research shows that meaning-making can lessen the negative effects of individuals adjusting to and living with chronic illness. Studies also reveal that people who believe their existence has meaning have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and more favorable gene expression related to inflammation. Still, more research shows that meaning-making can positively influence the transition of cancer patients into longer-term survivorship and help people harness the will to live, which has been shown to contribute to longevity.
Purpose grounds and motivates us, unifies our life, and directs us toward some ultimate concern or “North Star” around which we shape our lives. Purpose satisfies our desire to have a reason to get up in the morning and go to bed…