Brain Health Kuel Category Expert: Patricia Faust, MGS
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain
Throughout this time of COVID, I have been writing about how much normal things have changed, and how that has affected us. I want to look at purpose with this writing. Traditionally, people who go to work each day have a purpose. They know why they are getting out of bed and what they were going to do. There is a sense of purpose associated with that.
A Paradigm Shift:
The paradigm that we operate under has dramatically shifted this year. It may be presumptuous of me to talk about finding life purpose when you may actually be in survival mode. Let me take this a little further and suggest that if you begin to focus on your life purpose you may not be in survival mode anymore. How long has it been since you were excited to get out of bed in the morning and joyfully start your day? Is there something that you might be passionate about but have stuffed it deep inside because you couldn’t afford to move in that direction? Would it surprise you to know that life purpose is a key component of psychological wellbeing, and finding meaning in what you do and who you are?
A Return To Crisis Mode:
Now, we are in crisis mode again and many people are fearful once more that they are going to be jobless. Those who have been in this jobless situation since March will tell you that you can feel aimless and hopeless when your ‘WHY’ has disappeared. People in the mid-fifties who may have had glorious plans for retirement in the near future, are now finding that they probably will not find another position because there are many younger people in the same situation and they are most likely to be offered any type of position before an older worker. Coming to terms with an early, unplanned retirement can be a difficult pill to swallow.
Purpose Is Life Changing:
“having a goal in life affects the cellular activity in the brain”
Recognizing your passion and purpose is life changing. For over half of my life I had a career that I was interested in but never gave me fulfillment. I never understood why I couldn’t be content working in that position. Two automobile accidents pushed me into searching what it was that I really wanted to do; what would fill me with joy.
It was a concern that I was a little older when I finally found my passion. But I discovered that staying productive and having purpose promoted a longer life. My age became irrelevant in pursuing my purpose. The health benefits of feeling energized and purposeful paled in comparison to the benefits my brain was experiencing. I was creating a level of cognitive reserve – to prevent cognitive decline. In brain speak – having a goal in life affects the cellular activity in the brain (neurogenesis, neuroplasticity). Plaques and tangles still form but having a goal continues to build cognitive reserve. And, the stronger the purpose, the more resilient the brain is.
Your Brain Is Ready For A Change:
“The real purpose in life is to fully engage in your life”
Where are you on the life purpose ladder? Has your work always been your passion? Did COVID put an abrupt end to that? Or, are you getting ready to retire with no other plans in place? Has COVID left you numb as to what to do all day? COVID might have given you a gift. The gift to really find your purpose and passion.
Now you can reflect on the direction your life has taken. This may require some thought and it is not something that can be rushed. Your brain is ready for a change. Your brain loves the challenge of change. It is always ready to grow new cells and new neural pathways to become more resilient as you start embracing your new life. The real purpose in life is to fully engage in your life. You will find your passion as you direct your attention to living.
“It is not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.” Winston Churchill
About the Author:
Patricia Faust is a gerontologist specializing in the issues of brain aging, brain health, brain function and dementia. She has a Masters in Gerontological Studies degree from Miami University in Oxford Ohio. Patricia is certified as a brain health coach and received a certification in Neuroscience and Wellness through Dr. Sarah McKay and the Neuroscience Academy. My Boomer Brain, founded in 2015, is the vehicle that Patricia utilizes to teach, coach and consult about brain aging, brain health and brain function. Her newsletter, My Boomer Brain, has international readers from South Africa, Australia, throughout Europe and Canada. She has also been a frequent guest on Medicare Moment on WMKV and Cincy Lifestyles on WCPO.