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Eight Simple Things You Can Do to Renew Your Sense of Purpose and Health

August 21, 2020

By Kathleen J. Murray, LSW, MSW. Clinical Social Worker. Duke Diet & Fitness Center.

Many people, at this point in the COVID crisis, are experiencing a sense of low-grade depression, emptiness, grief, and loneliness. One of the remedies for this is to discover and/or renew our sense of meaning and purpose in life.

What does it mean to have a purpose in life?

Purpose in life means having goals, a sense of direction, and a sense of meaning to whatever is happening in our lives. Purpose in life is associated with better health, more restful sleep, healthier hearts and digestion, and a stronger immune system.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have also found that a sense of purpose leads to reduced stress, improved coping, and more health-promoting behaviors.

Purpose comes in different sizes.

It can be a burning passion for making a contribution to the world in the form of creating peace and well-being. This type of purpose usually comes out of places where we feel we have special gifts, or where we have been wounded or experienced loss.

However, purpose does not have to be one overarching thing. It can play out in different ways each day. It is how we feel and value different aspects of our lives:

Some values we can choose are:

  • Finding more inner peace, or peace in our family and relationships.
  • Engaging in healthy habits to increase energy and sense of well-being.
  • Making connections with family and friends despite social distancing.
  • Learning a new skill, language, or acquiring new knowledge.
  • Reflecting on gratitude, happy memories, and positive experiences.
  • Connecting with the beauty of nature, art, or music.
  • Engaging in random acts of kindness that make a real difference in the lives of others.
  • Setting positive goals and intentions for the future.

Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor “Man’s Search for Meaning”, documented how even in the horrors of the camps, people who found meaning in simple connection and kindness for others were the ones that survived and stayed healthier. He found meaning in writing a classic book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” and starting up a whole new type of psychotherapy called Logotherapy.

Many people are using COVID as a chance to develop new parts of themselves and reset their lives. It is a very healthy thing to do.


  1. Purpose in life is associated with physical activity measured by accelerometer. Stephanie A Hooker, Kevin S Masters: Journal of Health Psychology, 8/7/14.
  2. Logotherapy was developed by neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, on a concept based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find meaning in life. It is based on the belief that each person has a healthy core. It helps to enlighten a person to their own internal resources.



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