Long term goals results in better mental health

Study suggests goal directedness prevents onset of Alzheimer’s disease

Kristina Shatokhina

The fourth copy of my essay sails across the room, landing uselessly on the floor.

It’s five in the morning, the sky is bright and the birds are chirping.

I have work in one hour, but I remain at my desk because anything less than an A takes away any chances at graduate school.

I plan out my day tomorrow: work, volunteering, lab time, homework, work again.

Though this behaviour results in a loss of sleep and your own sanity, there are some advantages to pushing yourself.

Hana Uralsky, a third-year psychology student at York, believes that finding your purpose in life begins with a simple step as she says, “In university, just choosing a major puts you on a path to reach a goal. So many people don’t know what to do with their lives, trapped in undecided majors. Just taking some time to reflect and making this decision puts you on a path to really achieve your full potential.”

The Rush Memory and Aging Project, a study conducted in Chicago, Illinois beginning in 1997, studies the conditions of aging.

Led by Patricia A. Boyle, PhD, the study has found that knowing your purpose in life could potentially protect your brain.

Two-hundred-forty-six participants underwent yearly cognitive and neurological testing for the duration of ten years.

When participants were asked about their experiences and their future goals, Boyle found something worth noting.

Those who sought out lifelong goals had slower rates of mental decline.

With age, however, all participants developed plaques and tangles that deteriorate memory. Those with ambition and goals did not develop the Alzheimer’s disease.

Boyle explained that knowing your purpose results in meaningful experiences that promote cognitive health.

“People have so much anxiety and stress over what to do with their lives, leading to emotional breakdowns for some,” says Sarina Macri, a third-year Psychology student at York. “They can reduce this anxiety by having a positive outlook, setting goals and working towards them. Something that really helps me cope is making lists. I write down everything I have to do, now and in the future, and it really keeps me organized.”

Although sleepless nights and perfectionism are extreme and far from healthy, this study suggests that we should keep an eye on our goals and spend a little more time finding direction in our lives.

This year, York students are spending their summer taking extra courses and working longer hours at their part-time job.

And while this may not be the way we want to spend our summer, it could lead us to more than just a degree.

Having full, rich lives full of activity is what keeps us healthy and strong for years to come. Boyle says, “Further studies are needed to determine whether purpose in life may be useful as a target for interventions aimed to reduce the public health burden of cognitive decline in aging and Alzheimer’s Disease.”

With files from The Huffington Post

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