Two Powerful Strategies to Create Greater Meaning in Your Life
According to experts, seeking meaning is a primary motivation for living, essential to building resilience and expanding our capacity to respond to life’s joys and sorrows. One of the most compelling aspects of this meaning-making is that it invites a search toward greater wholeness, purpose, and transcendence. This can be an important factor at any stage of adult life, and particularly at midlife and beyond.
We have lots of choices – choices about where and how we focus our attention – choices about the questions we ask ourselves – choices about how we respond.
As we gain greater clarity about our meaning-making journey, we can cultivate greater spaciousness within our inner landscape. We can learn to expand our presence to life’s joys, sorrows, and longings, sometimes in ways we may have anticipated and sometimes in deep and unexpected ways (Wong, 2013; Frankl, 1986; Steger 2009).
This brief article offers two approaches to consider on your own path toward self-inquiry and seeking meaning – a brief mindfulness exercise and journaling.
😌 1. A Brief Mindfulness Exercise
Mindfulness can help you quiet down and expand your awareness. There are many ways to practice mindfulness. Here’s one strategy:
- Sit in a way that’s comfortable for you.
- Invite yourself to close your eyes or lower your gaze, if that’s more comfortable.
- Quietly pause and simply notice that you’re breathing. No need to change your breath. Just notice the flow of your in-breath, the flow of your out-breath, paying attention as you inhale and exhale. When your mind wanders to anything else (and it will), simply notice this and with self-compassion return to your breath. I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out. Let anything else going on simply be in the background, returning to your breath again and again as your mind wanders.
- You might choose to continue this mindfulness practice for one minute, five minutes, or longer. When you’ve completed your practice, open your eyes and look around. When you feel ready, return to your day.
Note: If focusing on your breath isn’t comfortable for you, you might choose an alternate anchor to direct your attention. For example: the sensations in your hand, a word, short phrase, or even a repeated/prolonged sound in your environment.
Here are links to three brief mindfulness recordings on my website, that may serve as resources:
📝 2. Journaling as a Personal Practice
Journaling can also help you increase your awareness by writing your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and perhaps creating steps for action. There are many ways to journal and it doesn’t need to be anything fancy.
Here are some journaling strategies. Experiment with what works best for you:
- Social psychologist James Pennebaker, PhD, (2016) has researched the personal benefits of writing for 15 minutes per day, 3 to 4 days in a row.
- If possible, find a quiet place, where you’re not likely to be disturbed.
- Write just for yourself. Don’t worry about what it looks like or sounds like. Whether you write on paper, type on a computer, or dictate into a recorder, it’s often easiest to write for the moment.
- Don’t worry about spelling or grammar for this process – you can choose to either throw away or keep what you write.
- Don’t give up. As the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu is quoted as saying: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”
💭 3. A Few Prompts For Journaling
These prompts are simply ideas. They can be considered individually or as a group to help you amplify the moments and choices of your life. Click here or the button below to view the PDF of journaling prompts.
Here’s to your path toward greater meaning and wellbeing!
Copyright © 2022 Ilene Berns-Zare, LLC, All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. No content is a substitute for consulting with a qualified mental health or healthcare professional.
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- Frankl, V. (1986). Man’s search for meaning, revised and updated edition. New York, NY: Washington Square Press.
- Pennebaker, J.W. & Smyth, J.M. (2016). Opening up by writing it down: How expressive writing improves health and eases emotional pain. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
- Steger, M.F. (2009). Meaning in life. In S.J. Lopez & C.R. Snyder (Eds.). Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 679-687). Oxford University Press.
- Wong, P.T.P. (2013) Meaning-seeking, Self-transcendence, & well-being. Conference on Life and Death Education, National Taipei University of Nursing & Health Science.
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Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC, CMC (ICF Credentialed), CEC, is an Executive and Personal Coach and Speaker. Ilene helps people live their best personal and professional lives by bringing mind, body, and spirit into flow with strengths, purpose, and potential. She inspires clients to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online, set up a free discovery coaching consultation, and access free resources at https://ibzcoaching.com/.
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