According to our understanding now, self-fulfillment and purpose are extremely important to development and well-being at any age.
Of course, the sooner these two values are cemented, the happier the individual is. This MSU study went on to show that children that spend five to 10 hours outdoors each week report having a spiritual connection with the earth so much that they feel it’s their duty to protect it.
Some of the more specific comments go on to describe feelings of peacefulness, humility and a general sense that something greater created the natural world. Overall, they expressed happiness and a deep sense of belonging.
In addition to misspelled questionnaire answers and stick figure drawings, researchers measured the children’s appreciation of aesthetic values. Those that played outside the most found a deep gratitude for order, beauty and wonder.
The two heading up the project mixed up research methods, such as drawings, interviews, observation, diaries and conversations with parents, to study this among a group of 10 children aged seven to eight. Of the 10, seven were raised in a Christian home.
It was also noted that the parents with the strongest affinity toward nature and the highest spirituality spent a lot of time outside as children. Many of them even admitted those experiences had shaped their lives.
However, the big questions is—why nature?
There are no definite answers, but the majority of explanations expand upon the sights, sounds and colors; the uncertainty; its multi-sensory extravaganza; and, more than anything else, nature’s ability to make us feel alive. Because it is continually changing, nature forces us to learn problem-solving.
Technology, then, is the opposite of nature. More than any other generation, children are becoming addicted at earlier and earlier ages to the glow of the screen, severing their ties with nature and fulfillment.
According to their findings, both recognizing and giving thanks for every positive moment and aspect of your life improves the body both mentally and physically, as shown by patients with asymptomatic heart failure.
Typically associated to those with higher levels of spirituality, gratitude can be attributed to any number of things, including pets and a divine deity. Those in the study that acknowledged their blessings slept better, had better moods, were less tired and, more importantly, had lower levels of inflammatory bio-markers.
The study assessed 186 men and women who had been diagnosed with asymptomatic heart failure for no less than three months. This meant that though they had developed heart disease, they did not show heart failure symptoms. Because those at this stage can easily progress to symptomatic heart failure with a death rate five times higher, doctors recognize it as a crucial point to halt the disease entirely, hence the reason why finding any means of halting progression is important.
The study was performed by using psychological tests to grade spiritual well-being and gratitude levels. These were then compared to sleep quality, depressive symptom severity, self-efficacy, fatigue and inflammatory markers. The tests showed gratitude and spirituality supporting better scores all around.
The most surprising bit of evidence, however, was that spirituality was only partially correlated with healthier scores. In the end, it was gratitude that made the real difference.
Researchers studied this phenomenon further by asking some patients to keep a gratitude journal every day of the week for eight weeks. Those that did so showed a decrease in cardiac risk. It would seem that a mind less focused on a stressful situation would cause the body less stress, leading to an overall improvement in health.
Watch a dramatic example of these principles in action right here.
Struggling to find meaning of life is a real struggle for those so inclined. Most people attempt to tackle one big question.
What is the meaning of life?
This is a very difficult question to answer. Philosophical counselors, mental health therapists and professional coaches of all kinds know well the existential impact of meaning vs. meaninglessness. One of the greatest sources of stability for all of us is to feel grounded in a life full of meaning.
What makes it so hard to come up with a pragmatic, satisfying answer?
One simple yet concrete part of the problem is the wording of the question itself. For example, it assumes that there is one sole meaning to be had. Secondly, it assumes that life has a meaning apart from the meaning you give it.
Most people understand that meaning is malleable. It can change depending on point of view and circumstance. People, things and events can be interpreted in a plethora of ways. Meaning is dependent upon perceptual filters. Perceptual filters are highly subjective and individualistic.
How are we, then, to find the “one single meaning” of life?
That said, many have answered this question of life’s meaning in spite of it’s vague nature. Yet, if you are still struggling with it, consider that there may be better questions to ask.
Here are 5 questions that serve as alternatives:
1. What is it that makes my life worth living?
This is a very fresh rephrase, isn’t it? Asking what makes your life worth living puts you in the driver’s seat. If you ask this question sincerely, ideas should come immediately to mind. My family, my work, my time spent learning, etc…are all viable options.
If “nothing” comes to mind, you can still work with this one. You simply substitute a couple of words. For example, “What is it that would make my life worth living?” Or even, “If my life were really worthwhile, what would I be doing differently?”
These questions are pragmatic and empowering.
2. What do I believe is most important in life?
Along the same lines as the first, this question hints at life values. Values are simple indicators of importance. Life values are words that describe what’s important to you in life. For example: Faith, family, freedom, security, interdependence, accomplishment, productivity, and so on.
Identifying your life values gives you a clarity and focus like few other activities. Knowing your values clarifies decisions, sorts out relationships and even defines career moves. That said, relatively few people take the time to clarify their values. Why not clarify yours?
3. How can I find more satisfaction in life?
Higher levels of life satisfaction make the big, scary existential question less intimidating. If you’re very fulfilled, it may bother you less that you haven’t pinpointed the “meaning of it all.” It’s not that the meaning of life is less important. However, not knowing your own answer will throw you off balance less if you are highly satisfied in life.
How can you become more satisfied? What do you need to do or stop doing to create greater fulfillment? What do you need from people around you? Pursuing inner satisfaction can be much more productive than chasing the meaning of life.
4. What meaning am I giving life in this moment?
Hop back into the driver’s seat. Ask yourself, moment to moment, “What meaning am I giving life right now?” Putting it this way honors the fact that life means what you make it mean. There isn’t a specific meaning lying next to some pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
Your life takes on meaning precisely according to the meaning you give it. If you become conscious of the meaning you project onto life, especially when you need to reverse negative situations, then you may develop greater choice over the meaning of your life.
5. Which life experiences have meant the most to me so far?
With this question, we are getting specific. We’ve all had profound learning experiences. Other people have moved us. We’ve made mistakes and recovered. We’ve accomplished things we’re proud of.
If you could narrow down your list of meaningful experiences to just five, which five would be on the list? Try it. Then, discover what those five experiences have in common. Did you learn something profound? Accomplish something worthwhile?
You’ll learn a lot about yourself by taking the time to address these questions. In fact, your answers could clarify your purpose and point you in a new direction, if you’re open to that.
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We all know that certain things like money, toys, and status do not provide deep soul satisfaction.
Yet, most of us spend our lives in hot pursuit of these things and rarely pause to reevaluate. Why?
And how do we get that deeper soul satisfaction reliably?
That’s what this post is all about. We’ll cover what it is, how not to get it, and finally, how to have deep soul satisfaction every single day, for free.
What is Deep Soul Satisfaction?
It’s a term I came up with that – on the surface – sounds a bit goofy. Yet, when I really think about it, deep soul satisfaction is what I most want in life. I believe it’s what you want as well. What is it?
Deep Soul Satisfaction
The ongoing inner fulfillment that comes from accepting and connecting to the world around you. Deep soul satisfaction is nothing other than the pure pleasure of sensory experience.
Deep soul satisfaction cannot be chased own and captured. It’s not a goal. It’s a simple experience that is available to anyone, anytime. Best of all, it’s very, very fulfilling. Nothing quite compares. You might even call it bliss.
Amazingly, we’re looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places. Science proves that so much of what we do to find satisfaction is nothing beyond useless. But that doesn’t seem to stop us from trying. Here are two places you may be looking for satisfaction in vain.
1. Your Stuff
Nope, sorry. Stuff can be fun to have. And it certainly can be useful. But stuff falls desperately short of providing lasting satisfaction.
The new dress, shoes, motorcycle, jet ski, phone or tablet. Fun stuff. Useful stuff. Not inherently satisfying. Materialists are less satisfied and more depressed, according to research done at Baylor University.
Materialistic couples score worse in every area of marriage evaluation than their non-materialistic counterparts.
It’s not the stuff that is the problem, though. It’s the pursuit of stuff. The expectation that the stuff will do something for you that it cannot do. It cannot satisfy you as a person.
2. Your Status
Forget stuff – go for status. Recognition by peers. Social clout. Respect!
Forget it. Philosopher Allain de Botton dedicated an entire book to the anxiety that comes with status seeking and maintenance.
Status seeking is intimately tied to what other people think. It’s something you can spend a lifetime trying (in vain) to control. And most of us to just that.
But this is a far cry from deep soul satisfaction, is it not?
What really works every single time to provide deep soul satisfaction?
They work every single time you use them well. Here are some examples:
Yesterday I was watching some paper come out of a printer. It was pure bliss. The printer gently grinding away….the color ink creating a design right before my eyes….and the satisfaction that I was involved in the process.
That morning I was taking a shower, listening to the hum of the water making its way though the pipes, eventually landing warmly on my skin. All the while, I was lost in a steamy haze.
I drank a cool glass of clear water. The water glided down my throat, and I felt it all the way down into my stomach!
Stupid? Yeah…silly stupid bliss. It’s all I want. And I’m just an average dude who likes to drink a few beers now and again. It’s not the printer itself, or the shower, or the glass of water that made any of this so satisfying.
It’s that I took the time to really see, hear and feel it happening as it was happening.
That’s deep soul satisfaction.
Pursuing anything else may be a grand effort toward self-sabotage.
Other helpful resources:
Greater Good posted a very interesting article on happiness vs. meaning in life. It’s worth reading.
Jeff Haden at Inc. wrote a very interesting piece on scientifically proven ways to be happy. And it’s very, very good advice!
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