Mental Health and Life Purpose: Unraveling the Connection for Better Well-being

Mental Health and Life Purpose

What Do We Mean When We Talk About “Mental Health and Its Connection to Purpose”?

When discussing ‘Mental Health and Its Connection to Purpose,’ we’re differentiating between simply ‘finding a hobby’ (which may merely act as a distraction) and truly discovering a ‘life purpose.’ We posit that identifying your life’s genuine purpose can significantly improve mental health by challenging limiting beliefs and disruptive behaviors. This process involves learning to navigate challenging situations, enabling you to experience a sense of purpose and accomplishment even in less than ideal circumstances[1].

[READ MORE: How Does Emotional Health Impact Physical Health]

Historically, the Concepts of Purpose and Mental Health have been Intertwined

Although the connection between purpose and mental health can be traced back to philosophical works from the BC era, the practical implications of this relationship remained largely unexplored until the mid-20th century. It was then that questions such as “how does purpose affect our mental health” and discussions about how to find purpose became foundational pillars for the field of positive psychology[2].

In more recent years, there has been robust debate within positive psychology about the origins of purpose and whether there’s a one-size-fits-all method for enhancing mental well-being through purpose discovery[3].

Purpose Can Lead to Mental Health Improvement…

Research indicates that a sense of purpose, referred to as “subjective life purpose,” is a unique and complex experience[4]. What provides a sense of purpose to one person may not do the same for another. However, generally, people tend to define purpose similarly: it’s an overall feeling of life satisfaction and the confidence that your actions and decisions positively influence your life and those around you[5].

This sense of purpose has been linked to better mental health, longer life expectancy, improved social relationships, and professional success[6].

The Role of Perceived Purpose in Your Life’s Journey

One of the most enigmatic aspects of discovering your life’s purpose involves understanding what generates feelings of satisfaction and confidence about the direction your life is taking. Many variables come into play, including personal growth, relationships, and achievements. However, finding a sense of purpose is often a more profound journey, exploring the heart of who you are and what you value most in life.

Contrary to what many might believe, a sense of purpose isn’t tied to material possessions or what you can afford to purchase. True, some people may find purpose in their career, wealth, or status, but these are not universal markers of purpose[7]. Instead, genuine purpose is less about what you have and more about who you are and how you impact the world around you. In this context, experts in positive psychology broadly agree that authentic purpose is largely a matter of choice[8].

In essence, it means making deliberate decisions that align with your values, passions, and strengths. It involves setting meaningful goals, contributing to something bigger than yourself, and cultivating a sense of significance in your life.

Leveraging Perceived Purpose to Unearth Your Genuine Purpose

This perspective suggests that the elements of real purpose aren’t hidden somewhere outside of you, waiting to be discovered. Instead, they are inherent within you, like seeds waiting to be watered and nurtured into full bloom. Thus, choosing to act with a sense of purpose, even in times of stress or discouragement, becomes a form of “emotional self-leadership.”

Such a decision—to behave purposefully, even when you don’t innately feel it—can serve as a vital early strategy in your journey of discovering your true purpose. By acting ‘as if’ you have a sense of purpose, you can start to influence your thoughts and behaviors in a way that progressively aligns with your genuine purpose. It’s like paving a path through a forest; each step you take carves out a clearer direction, making it easier to navigate as you progress.

Transitioning From Perceived Purpose to Genuine Purpose: The Effective Approach

However, it’s crucial to understand that acting with a sense of purpose is a delicate art that requires balance and authenticity. It’s not about blindly pretending everything is perfect or ignoring the realities of your current situation. It’s about adopting a specific mindset and making targeted behavior changes that gradually lead you towards your true purpose.

This approach involves self-reflection and self-awareness, the willingness to explore your passions, strengths, and values, and the courage to set meaningful goals that align with these discoveries. It also involves developing resilience to handle life’s inevitable challenges and setbacks, maintaining a positive and growth-oriented mindset, and seeking opportunities to make a meaningful impact in areas that matter most to you.

As you practice and cultivate these habits, you’ll find that your perceived sense of purpose begins to morph into a more profound, genuine sense of purpose that brings fulfillment, direction, and improved mental health into your life.

Seize Genuine Purpose for Enhanced Mental Well-being

The fundamental philosophy behind “simulating” a sense of purpose by preserving an optimistic attitude is that you can shape your own emotional state to feel fulfilled, even when external triggers for positive feelings are lacking[^9^].

If you are poised for an emotional transformation, and you’ve grown weary of hoping for “circumstances to improve,” I am eagered to assist you in shattering the restrictive negative cycles in your life. This is the cornerstone of unveiling your life’s purpose and amplifying your mental health.


[READ MORE: Hacking the Connection Mental Health Between and  Behavior]


  1. Friedman, Howard S. “Long-Term Relations of Personality and Health: Dynamisms, Mechanisms, Tropisms.” Journal of Personality, vol. 68, no. 6, 2000, pp. 1089–1107., doi:10.1111/1467-6494.00127.
  2. Ryff, Carol D. “Happiness Is Everything, or Is It? Explorations on the Meaning of Psychological Well-Being.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 57, no. 6, 1989, pp. 1069–1081., doi:10.1037//0022-3514.57.6.1069. 
  3. Huta, Veronika, and Richard M. Ryan. “Pursuing Pleasure or Virtue: The Differential and Overlapping Well-Being Benefits of Hedonic and Eudaimonic Motives.” Journal of Happiness Studies, vol. 9, no. 6, 2008, pp. 735–762., doi:10.1007/s10902-008-9114-x.
  4. Lyubomirsky, Sonja, et al. “The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?” Psychological Bulletin, vol. 131, no. 6, 2005, pp. 803–855., doi:10.1037/0033-2909.131.6.803. 
  5. Steger, Michael F., et al. “The Meaning in Life Questionnaire: Assessing the Presence of and Search for Meaning in Life.” Journal of Counseling Psychology, vol. 53, no. 1, 2006, pp. 80–93., doi:10.1037/0022-0167.53.1.80.
  6. Ryff, Carol D., and Burton H. Singer. “Know Thyself and Become What You Are: A Eudaimonic Approach to Psychological Well-Being.” Journal of Happiness Studies, vol. 9, no. 1, 2008, pp. 13–39., doi:10.1007/s10902-006-9019-0.
  7. Diener, Ed, et al. “Beyond the Hedonic Treadmill: Revising the Adaptation Theory of Well-Being.” American Psychologist, vol. 61, no. 4, 2006, pp. 305–314., doi:10.1037/0003-066x.61.4.305.
  8. Seligman, Martin E. P., et al. “Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions.” American Psychologist, vol. 60, no. 5, 2005, pp. 410–421., doi:10.1037/0003-066x.60.5.410.
  9. Ford, Brett Q., et al. “The Psychological Health Benefits of Accepting Negative Emotions and Thoughts: Laboratory, Diary, and Longitudinal Evidence.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 115, no. 6, 2018, pp. 1075–1092., doi:10.1037/pspp0000157.

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