Take a trip down to your local bookstore, and you’ll likely find stacks of memoirs and self-help books recounting peoples’ searches for meaning in their lives. From hiking through the wild to eating, praying, and loving your way through the world, people are obsessed with figuring out how to find meaning in their lives. And no wonder: research shows that having a sense of meaning is an important part of general well-being, both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, for the majority of the population, drastic adventures like these aren’t realistic.
There’s an old saying that if you’re looking for something, you won’t find it by looking outside of yourself unless you are also willing to look within yourself. While it might sound cheesy, it holds true for things like meaning and purpose in life. For people who are looking for meaning but don’t want to turn their lives inside out in the process, consider these ideas that can help you find meaning in your own way:
- Align Yourself with a Cause – If you’re feeling purposeless, try looking for an organization or project to get involved with—preferably one that aligns with your interests or passions. For example, if you love animals, consider volunteering for your local animal shelter or joining an animal rights activism group. In doing so, you’ll be connecting with others and also participating in something bigger than yourself to create positive change in your community, both of which can be extremely meaningful.
- Spend Time in Nature – Activities like hiking or going for walks at a local park are a good way to spend time in the natural world—a place that has historically been a huge source of inspiration and meaning for many people. In addition to being associated with improved health and mood, spending time outside often gives people a sense of awareness and connection to the world around them, both of which are important to finding meaning in life.
- Get Perspective – Sometimes, finding meaning in your life means stepping out of your comfort zone, at least temporarily. Traveling can be extremely helpful in figuring out what the meaning of life is for you. In addition to exposing you to new ideas and cultures, it can change your outlook on your own life. Pause to see and reflect on how other people live and at the challenges they face, especially those with greater financial hardships. You often don’t even need to travel very far in order to gain a new perspective and find meaning in your life.
- Try Something New – Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel has suggested that novelty is associated with dopamine release, which indicates that our brains are wired for stimulation by new things. In addition to the feeling of happiness you’ll get from dopamine, trying new things can also help you find meaning by expanding your worldview and giving you a chance to connect with others. Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to try new things—one of the perks of the digital age is that you don’t even have to leave your house to join a hobby group or take a cooking class.
- Become a Mentor – One of the best ways you can find meaning in life is by helping others, especially children and adolescents from younger generations. By becoming a mentor, you can help teach children about the world and make a meaningful impact on the course of their lives. Not only will you be helping them, but through your experience of mentoring, you will also be finding meaning in your own life.
The Institute of Youth Development and Excellence (IYDE) strives for every youth in the world to have access to a trained mentor because of the impact they can have on a child’s life. If you are looking for meaning in your life, consider becoming a trained mentor through our organization. Our mission is to provide mentors in every community across the United States with the tools and training for successful and meaningful relationships with their mentees. Placing trained mentors in the lives of youths impacts critical life decisions and influences how they contribute to their communities and society as a whole. It also brings meaning and purpose to the lives of the mentors. Help us make a difference in the lives of children by joining us as a volunteer or donating to our cause today!