Research shows that people who live a meaningful life live longer. If you want to add years to your life, start by increasing your interpersonal connections, cultivating a sense of purpose or mastery and volunteering. All of these cause a reduction in mortality risk and greater life satisfaction. Plus, you can start doing them today!
Increase your interpersonal connections.
Call or spend time with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Texting or emailing doesn’t count—the idea is to really connect, the old-fashioned way. A meta-analysis of 148 studies found that mortality risk from social isolation was found to be equal to that of risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption and exceeded the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.
It’s easy to fall into a rut where you spend more time working than socializing, and this is why creating balance in your life is essential. There’s a special bond you create with a true friend, and it feels good to spend time with someone who has your back, offers support and is just fun to be around.
Cultivate a sense of purpose or mastery.
Set a goal and start working toward it. Anything will do as long as it interests you and you’ll feel a sense of mastery once you achieve it. You might want to read one book per month for the next three months, learn how to master cooking a new dish or sign up for a 5k walk/run and start training for it.
Volunteer for an organization that advocates for a cause that is close to your heart. Help serve food to the homeless at a soup kitchen, take a dog for a walk at your local shelter or visit the elderly at a nursing home or hospital. Donating your time gives you the most benefits, but if time feels too short, donating money also has health and happiness benefits. A Vanderbilt University study investigated the relationships between volunteer work in the community and six aspects of personal well-being: happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, sense of control over life, physical health and depression. Results show that volunteer work indeed enhances all six aspects of well-being.