Have you considered your existential health lately?
When you think of your health, you might focus primarily on how you’re eating, exercising, and sleeping – all important aspects of your physical health.
But my guess is that you’ve probably never heard of existential health or its benefits.
What is existential health?
Existential health is related to your sense of purpose and meaning in life and is linked to greater health and longevity.
“Being inspired by things in your life doesn’t just help your emotional well-being — it may keep you healthier,” author Kelly Bilodeau reports in her Harvard Medical blog, “Will a purpose driven life help you live longer?”
So you might be wondering how exactly does boosting your existential health support you and how can you nurture this important aspect of your wellness?
Benefits of boosting existential health
1. Promotes better self-care.
Simply put, when you have a sense of meaning and purpose in life you’re more likely to engage in health promoting behaviors. That’s powerful!
2. Reduces stress.
Eric S. Kim, PhD, a research scientist in the department of social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that people living with a strong sense of meaning and purpose are more resilient to life stressors.
3. Reduces inflammation.
Research shows that nurturing your existential health specifically protects you from heart, circulatory, or blood conditions (JAMA 2019).
So what can you do specifically to nourish your existential health?
How to boost your existential health
Having a sense of purpose is something you may naturally find throughout your life AND it’s also something you can nurture to boost your health and longevity.
Consider what makes life meaningful to YOU and skip the natural human tendency to compare yourself to others.
Take some time to self-reflect:
1. Identify your values, priorities.
Who are you? What matters most to you?
I am the kind of person who:
And it’s important to me that:
Because: (your why)
Ask yourself these three questions five times or until you can’t think of anything else to write down about your priorities and values in life.
Here’s one example: I am the kind of person who values family and friendship. And it’s important to me that: I nurture these connections by checking in regularly because: connecting with others is what matters most to me.
2. Identify your strengths.
What do you enjoy doing? What are your unique gifts? Yes, you have many strengths so take the time to write them down and ask a friend or family member to help you identify them.
3. Nurture a growth mindset.
A growth mindset is the belief that anything – a capacity, an ability, a personality trait, can be improved with sustained effort. So now that you’ve identified your values, priorities and strengths, how might you grow and build upon them?
4. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Reflecting on what you’re grateful for can guide you on how you might contribute to the world and “pay it forward,” within in your family, community, or on a larger scale!
Existential health is one of the six domains (physical, mental, emotional, environmental and relational health) that make up your whole health and well-being, known as your “deep health.” Deep health comes from gentle nutrition, sufficient movement and rest, a supportive environment, real human connection and healthy emotional expression.
“And it comes from living with purpose and joy, and using your life as an expression of these things” says Krista Scott-Dixon, PhD and Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD about deep health.
Each aspect of your health impacts all the other domains. So by living into and nourishing your sense of purpose and meaning in life, you can boost your overall health and longevity.
How might you nourish your existential health, if even a little bit, today? Tanya