Having a sense of purpose is better for your brain, amazing new research 2022

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New research out of Florida State University suggests strongly that having a sense of purpose is not only a good way to achieve your life goals – it’s also good for your brain. Specifically, having a sense of purpose can make your memory better, improving your ability to recall vivid details.

The researchers discovered that while having a sense of purpose and cognitive function made it easier to recall memories, only a sense of purpose added the benefits of vividness and coherence.

A sense of purpose: good for your life, good for your brain

Sense of purpose
We wish we could unsee this. But the good doctor does have a point
about man needing a sense of purpose in life

Research has consistently associated a sense of purpose in life with better episodic memory, such as the number of words retrieved correctly on a memory task. This latest research expands on those connections to memory by showing a correlation between purpose and the richness of personal memory. The study focused on memories related to the COVID-19 pandemic and was published in the journal Memory.

“Personal memories serve really important functions in everyday life,” said Angelina Sutin, a professor in the College of Medicine and the paper’s lead author.

“They help us to set goals, control emotions and build intimacy with others. We also know people with a greater sense of purpose perform better on objective memory tests, like remembering a list of words. We were interested in whether purpose was also associated with the quality of memories of important personal experiences because such qualities may be one reason why purpose is associated with better mental and physical health.”

Almost 800 participants reported on their sense of purpose and completed tasks that measured their cognitive processing speed in January and February 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic. Researchers then measured participants’ ability to retrieve and describe personal memories about the pandemic in July 2020, several months into the public health crisis.

Participants who reported a stronger sense of purpose in life also reported that their memories were more accessible, coherent and vivid than participants with less purpose. Participants with a higher sense of purpose reported many sensory details, tended to speak about their memories more from a first-person perspective and reported more positive feelings when asked to retrieve a memory.

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The study also suggests that depressive feelings had little effect on the ability of the participants to recall vivid details in memories.

“We chose to measure the ability to recall memories associated with the COVID-19 pandemic because the pandemic is an event that touched everyone, but there has been a wide range of experiences and reactions to it that should be apparent in memories,” said co-author Martina Luchetti.

Along with the association with better memory, previous research has found other numerous benefits connected with having a sense of purpose, from a lower risk of death to better physical and mental health.

“Memories help people to sustain their well-being, social connections and cognitive health,” said co-author Antonio Terracciano. “This research gives us more insight into the connections between a sense of purpose and the richness of personal memories. The vividness of those memories and how they fit into a coherent narrative may be one pathway through which purpose leads to these better outcomes.”

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