purpose driven medicine

They say time heals all wounds. But when it comes to overcoming an acute or chronic illness, time isn’t the only remedy. Of course, surgery or medication might be necessary. But even undergoing the knife or popping pills has its limitations for the long-term road to recovery. 

Increasingly, research shows that in order to heal to your full potential, it helps to have not only a positive attitude but also a strong sense of life purpose. Living a meaningful life doesn’t just make you feel better mentally, it also provides you with a more robust immune system and accelerates how quickly your life can get back to normal. 

A New Prescription Paradigm: Finding Meaning In Life

Picture a time when you went to see the doctor for something more serious than an annual physical. Did your doctor ask you to visualize and write your recovery goals? And did your doctor advise you to carve out some time during the day, sit still and recite healing affirmations such as: “I am a picture of perfect, vibrant health.” Or: “I deserve and expect to live a life full of joy and radiant wellness.” Or: “I walk and move around with no limitations in my mobility.”?

Probably not. 

No offense to your doctor, but the allopathic paradigm, for the most part, does not include positivity consciousness. Even if your doctor has a congenial bedside manner—and even makes house calls—chances are they didn’t learn about the power of positivity-consciousness and purpose-based affirmations in medical school. 

Hopefully that will change. But for now, you can take charge of your healing potential with simple but highly-effective psychological techniques. However, there’s more to healing than just having a positive attitude. Without a doubt, thinking positively and visualizing a speedy, full recovery are vital. But healing to your full potential also requires a strong sense of purpose. 

Hedonistic Happiness vs Purpose-Based Happiness

It’s easy to have a strong sense of life purpose if you’re, say, a special education teacher or firefighter. But what if you’re somebody who thinks, “I don’t know what to do with my life?” 

Finding meaning in life doesn’t necessarily have to be predicated on your occupation. Of course, it helps to be doing something you feel is contributing to society. However, living a purpose-based life to maximize your healing potential can be achieved without having to punch a clock. For example, you can volunteer at a senior center, food bank, or community center.

But for full recovery, why isn’t it enough to merely be happy? After all, if you have a high-paying job, a big house, plenty of money, expensive cars, and a plethora of material possessions, won’t you have a better chance of feeling healthy than a low-income person who is depressed? 

Maybe. Maybe not. 

You see, ‘hedonistic happiness,’ which is self-satisfaction based on pleasure attainment and pain avoidance, may actually weaken the immune system. In comparison, “eudaimonic happiness,” which relates to living a life with a meaningful purpose and striving for self-realization (achieving your maximum potential) has been associated with a more balanced, non-hyper-inflammatory immune system, as observed in research studies

While there’s nothing wrong with attaining financial wealth and seeking pleasure, researchers speculate that being happy purely on a hedonistic level can backfire. The reason? Perhaps it’s because gnawing at the back of the mind, there’s the fear—and stress—that the material wealth can be snatched away at any given time. 

But studies show that the spiritual bedrock of purpose and meaning are more vital for making a full recovery.  

Visualizing Full Recovery 

More than finding purpose and meaning in life, loving yourself and truly believing that you deserve to get better and will get better are also paramount for recovery.  

So why is it that some people think, “I will never get better” or believe that they don’t even deserve to get better? What is lacking in their lives? For starters, most people don’t learn how to cultivate purpose or manifest health goals in school or on the job. But anybody can embark on a more successful journey to full recovery with these 3 simple steps:

1. Visualization

Dare to dream. Even if your mind is filled with sabotaging thoughts and self-doubt, take some time—as little as 5 minutes—both morning and night to sit (or lie down if that’s more comfortable) in a quiet place and picture how it is you want to feel. Don’t just think about no longer having this or that ailment and symptoms. Instead, really visualize the positive health goals you will achieve (not want to achieve, but will achieve!). 

For instance, imagine yourself once again conquering a strenuous hike and feeling awesome at the end. Picture being strong enough to hold your child or grandkid. Focus on these recovery visualization tools to maximize your healing potential. 

2. Set “SMART” Goals

In addition to visualizing your full recovery and health goals, it also helps to record your goals with the SMART system: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. 

Let’s use an example. 

Suppose one of your health goals is to lose weight. Well, that’s great, but you’ll have much more success if you clearly define your goals in a manner that will set you up for success. 

For instance: I will lose extra body fat so that my joints feel better. I will lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks. 

That goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and sets a time frame. 

Once you have achieved your first “SMART” goal, you’ll see that it will spur a domino effect. You’ll easily reach your next SMART health goal. 

3. Cultivate Positivity Consciousness

Even if you’re struggling to pay bills or are limited in your mobility and facing health challenges, there are always things in your life for which you can be grateful. Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” for the blessings you have in your life, however small, can make a difference. Taking a couple of minutes each day to write down or recite what you’re thankful for can enhance your recovery. 

Meditation and other spiritual practices such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, intentional breathing as well as prayer can help shift a negative mindset to a more positive one and have been shown to have a positive influence on healing

Purpose-Driven Healing: Conclusion

The loosely-defined term ‘holistic health’ incorporates physical, mental, and spiritual tools. Many functional medicine practitioners believe they are truly serving their patients holistically. But the reality is that relatively few health professionals emphasize the importance to their patients of cultivating eudaimonic happiness to enhance recovery. 

Hopefully, that will soon change. The good news is that at Innovative Medicine, we employ a vast array of spiritual practices and emotional-therapy techniques in our healing paradigm. 

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Disclaimer: The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products or treatments mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a licensed medical practitioner for medical advice.

At Innovative Medicine, we believe in transparency. We want you to know that we may participate in affiliate advertising programs pertaining to products mentioned herein.

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Meet the Author

Judd Handler

Judd Handler is an Encinitas, CA-based natural health writer and a graduate of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN) and a certified Metabolic Typing Advisor.
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