Life can seem so much easier when you avoid its tough questions, such as: What is the meaning of life? What pursuits would fulfill me? Is what I’m doing morally or ethically right? The questions can feel too complicated or overwhelming or pointless. Instead, you might prefer to just focus on getting through the day—a seemingly more practical, and less emotionally painful or confusing, approach to life. But, as it turns out, your ability and willingness to entertain life’s big questions can also empower you psychologically, improving your overall mental health and happiness.
Thinking about the “big” questions of life as they apply to you requires that you be open to your inner workings. By acknowledging and accepting these experiences, you will feel motivated to live in accordance with your values and pursue interests of importance to you. If you struggle with your emotions, thoughts, or beliefs, this awareness presents an opportunity. You can work toward finding inner peace and acceptance; though you might need to get help to do so.
An interesting study published in 2016 by researchers at Case Western Reserve University confirmed that emotional avoidance had negative effects on people’s psychological health. They noted that people who were highly emotionally avoidant were likely to have been unable to pursue paths that might offer meaning and personal fulfillment. The researchers also looked specifically at avoidance of spiritual issues. They found that those who tended to be avoidant of these issues experienced less of a sense of spiritual well-being. And the more they struggled with their spirituality, the more they tended feel more generally distressed and to have less positive moods.
If you have been putting aside life’s important questions, you might want to consider facing them. Some questions you might ask yourself are:
What do you prize most in your life? (Do you nurture this part of your life?)
What are your thoughts about what your purpose in life might be?
What are your values, and how well do you live in accordance with them?
What are your beliefs about God, a divine being, or a spiritual realm of life?
When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered?
Particularly in a society that worships immediate gratification and being happy, choosing to ponder life’s difficult questions can seem like an unnecessary pursuit. But these questions cannot be ignored forever. They will emerge and re-emerge throughout your life. Though you cannot definitively solve them, forever laying them to rest, you can take up their challenge. In doing so, you can strengthen your psychological strength, resolve, and sense of purpose; making you the hero of your own life.
Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset in Somerville, NJ. She is also a regular contributor for the WebMD blog Relationships and is the relationship expert on WebMD’s Relationships Message Board.
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Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.
Personal change through compassionate self-awareness