“Everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning, be it a job or walking the dog. That's what gets you going and the rest follows.”
Purposeful activity means different things for different people. It's something that gets you out of bed in the morning. It might be your work, a hobby, or things you do regularly that you enjoy.
These activities make you feel like a contributor, build your sense of self-worth, and give you satisfaction and meaning. And they are vital to everyone's wellbeing.
There are many activities to choose from, and it might take some time finding the right one for you. The important thing is to start.
Looking online for things you are interested in may provide the spark you need. We have a few resources to help you get started. We also have pages on purposeful activities like work, hobbies, volunteering, and more.
A closer look
Artistic activities can enhance mental health
It has long been believed that artistic activities can help provide personal meaning and boost mental health, and now, recent research is showing evidence for this. These beneficial effects are true of all art forms – like music, dance, visual arts or expressive writing – and can occur whether you are doing the art yourself, or observing the work of someone else (like going to an art gallery or listening to music). (Source)
Purposeful activity can get us in a “flow state”
When you are doing something challenging enough to be absorbing, but not overwhelming, and time just seems to fly by, you are in a "flow state". It could be flipping burgers for a hungry crowd, playing a piece of music, or working in your garden. Flow states are pleasurable in their own right; people seem wired to enjoy them. (Source)
Purposeful activities can help with recovery from mental illness
Research shows that when you are recovering from a mental illness, being involved in any purposeful activity helps with recovery. This is especially the case when your levels of social support are lower. This is a very personal thing; it will vary depending on your preferences for how much social contact or physical activity is involved, and whether or not you prefer to stay at home or get out of the house more. (Source)
Meaningful work has benefits to mental health
If you feel your work is meaningful, it can be one of the key factors that can influence your mental health. The World Health Organization says that the positive influences of meaningful work on your mental health come from a range of things like having something regular to do, connecting and working with others, and feeling good about contributing. (Source)
You may need to change your purposeful activities over time
Sometimes people with mental or physical health issues can find it difficult to carry out their usual activities. However, stopping regular meaningful activities without replacing them with new ones can have a negative effect on mental health. So being open to new meaningful activities or doing old activities in a different way can help you manage your wellbeing. (Source)
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).