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Finding Your Purpose: The Key to Less Stress, Better Health

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It’s been quite a journey for me, spending these months with you talking about the ins and outs, surprises and expectations inherent in the hormone dance we call menopause. Perhaps you have found consolation in the fact that we all go through it. No matter how silently we bear it or how much we try to deny it, it will happen, or is happening, or has happened to all of us. We can choose to fight it with fitness, or Botox, or whatever the latest “menopause diet” might be. We can push against nature, fighting aging or constantly trying new methods for symptom relief, but no matter what we do, menopause will eventually come, and then it will pass. But I believe that, more than any other remedy, your best ammunition against menopause is how you choose to perceive it.

What do you think about when you think about yourself? Life means change. Hormones change, increasing and decreasing as we move through the stages of our lives. We might have children, who grow up and eventually move on with their own lives…or we might find a different objective…or multiple meaningful pursuits for our lives. Relationships come and go. Loved ones are born and live and pass away. Work changes, health changes, our communities change, our world leaders change. Even who you are in your own heart can change, evolving as your life becomes more complex, deeper, and more experienced. You become wiser, but there will always be a seed inside that is the same you. And knowing who that is—knowing what is and is not important to you—can help you choose how to live each day. It can give your life meaning, and the inspiration to make your life the best it can be. A big part of that is staying vital and healthy, so you can enjoy the life you are living even during stressful times.

During holiday times, I often get nostalgic, as many of us do, reviewing the year that has gone by, enumerating the wins and contemplating the losses. I think of all those ways I made an impact on those around me and how I enriched my own life. I contemplate whether I maintained the sense of my own integrity, morality, boundaries, and if I put forth the effort to be my best self. When I think of the trajectory of my life, I evaluate the potential health threats and how to prevent them, and how those relate to the choices I make every day. Am I exacerbating any health issues? Am I moving towards or away from balance? And perhaps most importantly, do I have a purpose? Has my purpose changed? What do I live for? As the end of the year approaches, I encourage everyone to take this kind of personal inventory because cultivating health and vitality is about more than just diet, exercise, and stress relief.

Studies have shown that if you live life with passion and with purpose, you are less likely to suffer from health issues and premature death. In fact, several studies have examined how having a life of purpose influences health and longevity. Giving “purpose” a point score, one study showed a significant reduction in death, heart disease, and stroke during the study, from 12-27%, even with a 1 point increase in purpose-grade. Victor J. Strecher, the professor and director for innovation and social entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan School of Public Health writes in his book, Life on Purpose, that purpose can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, cut your risk of Alzheimer’s by more than half, improve sleep, decrease inflammation, and repair your DNA to slow aging. He concludes that living life with a purpose is the key to happiness, vitality, and health.

This isn’t always easy. What’s easy is to become overwhelmed with changes that seem negative, whether those are changes in your own body, or the volatile changes that seem to occur constantly in the world. This holiday season, take some quiet time to reflect on your past year, the past 5 years, the past 10 years, and ask yourself if you are living your life with purpose and with passion. If the answer is “no,” then I challenge you to use the menopausal transition as a time to begin steering your own life with your heart. Find your purpose, and let it guide you. Let it be the reason you get up in the morning. Let it be the fuel to power your self-care. Let it charge your proverbial batteries. This is what I mean when I talk so often in my book, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart Healthy Life, about “living from the heart.”

If you have already found your purpose and you are living it, then you know what it means to “live from the heart,” but if you haven’t, let that be your New Year’s goal. What do you live for? What drives you? What fills your soul? Start the new year vowing to yourself that you will find your purpose, live it, and go for it! There’s nothing that will make you live your life with more health, more vigor, more inspiration, and more heart than waking up each and every day looking forward to doing what you love.

Menopause is not a choice, but how you choose to live your life is all up to you. Happy Holidays, with a wish from me to you that this year, finding your purpose will be the best gift of all!

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