A sense of purpose triggers survival instincts in human beings. It’s why you wake up every morning with tasks already in mind. Your brain instinctively creates mini-logs of plans and things-to-do to be successful at surviving the day. A need for purpose gives serious meaning to goals and objectives. It is an innate craving, and its lack usually signifies a deeper emotional concern.
Why do you need to create and foster a sense of purpose in patients? Here are five reasons you should:
1. It has physical benefits.
Several studies found that having a sense of purpose helps people find meaning in their life, and that they are less likely to develop sleep problems, have a heart attack, or die early.
2. It combats stress.
Being aware of what’s important in life and seeing the bigger picture makes your worries and annoyances seem more trivial. Imagine that this applies to patients who are sick, in pain, or disabled.
Even with poor health conditions, patients put their physical limitations aside and focus on what needs done. Their sense of purpose gives them control over their life, resulting in reduced stress.
3. It makes people value life more.
If patients have short-term and long-term goals, they become appreciative of what life has to offer. Patients tend to take better care of themselves and strive to be healthier as well.
4. It results in more physical activity.
You gotta do what you gotta do. And, you need to take action to get what you want, which means you have to literally get moving to make your goals happen. For patients, this is a very good thing because it exercises the muscles and improves circulation.
5. It contributes to improved mood.
When you work hard to fulfill a purpose or reach a goal, you celebrate small successes. You feel happiness at every milestone you successfully reach. A greater sense of purpose, therefore, leads to better emotional health. When patients have something to look forward to, even something as simple as completing a craft project, it gives them feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction.
Now that we have established that a sense of purpose improves health, the next question is, how do we do this as caregivers?
Another study highlights the importance of a sense of purpose in the lives of nursing home residents. Researchers aimed to explore ways of improving residents’ need to accomplish projects and achieve goals, and they came up with the following four strategies:
Foster physical and mental wellbeing. What comes around, goes around. A sense of purpose leads to better health and likewise, patients need to be healthy to have the daily resolve to fight everyday challenges. For caregivers, this means that they have to continue providing excellent care to patients.
Patients need a sense of belonging and recognition so they can develop ways to be useful and know their contribution is valued. When patients feel comfortable in a group and their efforts are appreciated, they want to do more for others and for themselves.
Make room for personally valued activities. For this strategy, you need to dig deeper into a patient’s favorite past times, hobbies, and other interests.
Help patients keep in touch with family and friends so they maintain meaningful connections and remain close to those they love. The principle is this: If you value someone, you do everything you can for them. So, when family makes it clear to a patient that they are loved and treasured, they become more motivated and strive to become healthier.
When caregivers help create a sense of purpose in their patients, they become instruments in improving the health and preserving the quality of life of those they serve. It is a profound way to help patients live life to the fullest.
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