For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment.
This powerful quote comes from the well-known book, Mans Search for Meaning, by the revered Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. It touches on the human nature of finding purpose and meaning in ones lifea challenge that can become more elusive as we age. In one of our recent articles, we discussed The Undeniable Link Between Having Purpose & Aging Well, which explored some of the fundamental reasons why its important for seniors to stay connected to their sense of purpose.
Despite the immense research supporting the vital role a sense of purpose plays in the physical health, mental cognition and emotional well-being of older adults, many seniors still struggle to maintain this connection. It could be argued that for some, an essential element of the equation is missing. Here, were highlighting the significance of practicing gratitude in ones search for purpose during their senior years, including valuable insights on how to make gratitude a part of everyday life.
An interesting byproduct of consistently practicing gratitude is the ability to pinpoint that which is most important to a person, at any given moment or period in their life. When you realize what it is you are inherently grateful for, you have a deeper understanding of the people, experiences and other gifts that truly matter to you. And in knowing what matters most, a person has the insight to foster purpose around those specific elements.
To put this in perspective, lets use the example of family. Perhaps in your practice of gratitude, you realize that one of the things you are most grateful for is the strong bond you share with children, grandchildren and other members of your family. Having the support and love of family is something for which you are immensely thankful. This sheds light on the fact that family means a great deal to you, which is a vital key to unlocking your inner sense of purpose.
Maybe your purpose revolves around leaving a legacy for your family or cultivating a strong sense of family for generations to come. It might be related to a passion for helping other people who arent blessed with a similar family support system, or a desire to counsel families who are struggling with relationship challenges. Whatever the specific purpose might be, it is the employment of gratitude that can open up those insights and strengthen ones connection to their purpose.
This is a hopeful reality for seniors, who may feel that the changes in their life have distorted their true sense of purpose. When you realize that gratitude can pave the way to purpose regardless of your age or experience in life, the possibilities for regaining that connection are virtually limitless.
In addition to laying the groundwork for inner purpose, gratitude can have some pretty amazing benefits for seniors who recognize the importance of this practice. Here are just a few to consider:
Its amazing how many different ways a persons overall well-being can be impacted by making gratitude a staple in their daily routine. For those seniors who want to become more involved in gratitude practices but dont know where to start, weve got some simple ideas to help support your effort.
Gratitude journals have become increasingly popular in todays culture, as they are a tangible way to remind oneself about what you already have and appreciate in your life. There are guided gratitude journals that prompt specific responses and practices, or you can create your own simple process for journaling with just a pen and paper. The important thing is to make it a daily routine, carving out time for this practice in everyday life.
Whether you opt for a formal meditation class or make time and space for your own unique process of meditation at home, theres real power in the practice of consciously reflecting on that which youre grateful for. Meditation can help create not just the idea of gratitude, but the actual experience of it. It can help clear your mind so youre open to new ideas about gratitude in your life, and receptive to your own intuition.
Let others know when you are grateful for them or their words and actions. Expressions of thanks go a long way in terms of internalizing the gratitude you feel. It could be simply thanking the barista who made your morning coffee or sending a note of appreciation to the neighbor who gave you a lift to a doctors appointment. These seemingly small expressions of gratitude are actually quite significant in the larger scheme. They help make gratitude an ongoing priority and practice in ones life.
These are just some of the ways seniors can begin prioritizing gratitude on a daily basis. Theres a multitude of avenues for adopting this practice, from leveraging prayer to becoming more active in volunteer opportunities and community causes. Be sure to opt for whatever gratitude outlet feels right for you so it becomes a natural part of your day and an empowering element in connecting with your sense of purpose.
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