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The Joy of Living a Meaningful Life | Guide to a Happier, Healthier You | Wellness Resource


The Joy of Living a Meaningful Life…

“It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts.”- Adlai Stevenson

The point Stevenson illustrates is a reminder of how it’s easy to lose sight of living a meaningful life.

It’s an interesting phenomenon the amount of time, energy, and money we invest in living healthier, longer, and happier lives. Yet, we often still feel unsatisfied and that our lives are devoid of meaning.

When it comes to living a meaningful life, there’s no one size fits all solution. What makes life meaningful is unique to each and every person. So to find meaning, you may need to do some exploration to discover what speaks to you.

Meaning can come from many different avenues. Unlike happiness, which stems from receiving or doing things for yourself, meaning comes from giving or doing for others.

Perhaps for you, it comes from fostering a close family relationship. For some, it’s about choosing a fulfilling career path that involves helping others through teaching, nursing, counseling, or coaching. Others find meaning by giving back to their community by joining the Kiwanis or volunteering as a Big Brother or Big Sister. Purpose can also come from forming an organization for a national cause you’re passionate about. Or perhaps taking up a hobby you enjoy, such as gardening, then donating your excess produce to a soup kitchen.

But before you begin your journey to explore new avenues for meaning, evaluate what you’re doing with your life right now. Maybe you’re already giving in a way you don’t even realize and aren’t giving yourself enough credit. If so, you may just need to re-frame in your mind what you’re already doing and understand what you do really does matter. If it still isn’t enough to satisfy your quest for a meaningful life, explore other options that are important to you.

After you’ve determined what would bring meaning to your life is often where the challenge lies. You must now make a conscious decision and concerted effort to follow through. If you’ve chosen a challenging path, only you can decide if the sacrifice and risk are worth the reward of a meaningful life.

Often, we blow our sacrifices and risks way out of proportion. The most significant risk may merely be an unrealistic fear of failure. The greatest sacrifice may be little more than stepping outside your comfort zone or setting aside a little happiness in exchange for something more fulfilling, uplifting, and meaningful.

If these are the things holding you back, work toward changing your frame of mind. Schedule 20 minutes a day to sit in solitude with your eyes closed envisioning your meaningful life. Allow yourself to build excitement and desire for that which would bring meaning to you and others.

Also, spend some time each day reading or listening to audio books and watching online videos relevant to the activity that would bring meaning.

If you find you’re still holding yourself back, talk to supportive family and friends, and ask them to hold you to it. A counselor or coach can also lend support to help you move toward your goals.

Whatever path you choose, and regardless of its outcome, give yourself credit for your efforts. Remember, having a meaningful life is often as much about how you perceive what you do as it is about what you do.

By Kimberly Blaker

Guide to a Happier, Healthier You

With the start of a new year it is important to reflect back on the prior year, assess what went well, what didn’t and decide where you want to go next. It takes a lot of mental toughness, self-love, and discipline to create the life you want. Simply coasting along on cruise control reacting to life can lead to victim mentality and stagnation. Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD, a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist. shares key ways to get mentally fit for the new year so you can move forward successfully. In doing so, you don’t have to swear yourself to resolutions and feel like a failure if you don’t achieve them.  Just think about the life you want to create and take small steps.

Clear clutter
Look at your surroundings. If you have junk drawers galore, a messy car, counter tops and cabinets that are full of stuff you don’t even use, it is time to clear the clutter. According to Dr. Hafeez, “cluttered spaces reflect a cluttered mind. If you want to wipe the slate clean to allow room for new people and circumstances that serve you, you must get your mind clear. Many of my patients who describe themselves as anxious, stressed or even depressed say they feel better when they start clearing up their physical space.”

Eat mind-boosting foods
Mental fitness also has to do with how well our minds work. A loss of memory or the ability to concentrate or focus can easily shift with an improved diet. “Research finds that along with other benefits, foods rich in Omega-3, such as some fish and nuts, as well as those full of antioxidants can help protect the brain from memory decline. “Eating more fish such as salmon and add fruits such as blackberries and blueberries to your diet can help. The good news is that brain-boosting foods include delicious options such as chocolate, guacamole (avocados) and sunflower seeds.

The adult coloring book bandwagon is a good one to jump on. According to Dr. Hafeez coloring requires a total focus on the present. The repetitive motion of coloring provides relief from stress and anxiety by entering a meditative state. “Not everyone can sit still and breathe for 15 minutes per day, but they certainly can color. It’s absolutely a fun way to achieve mindfulness and shake off the day,” explains Dr. Hafeez.

Apologize and forgive
A fast way to mental fitness is forgiveness! “Carrying around resentments and guilt wears us down and can lead to serious illness such as cancer or stroke. If you experienced a tough break up, divorce or perhaps the 2016 political climate led to arguments and lost friends, reach out apologize and seek forgiveness and move on. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone hurtful behavior. Forgiveness frees you and the other person making it easier to move forward.

Learn something new
Challenge your brain by learning a new language, how to cook, paint, do Tai Chi. Pick something you think would be interesting or useful to learn and learn it. If you avoided cooking your whole life, learning the basics will serve your brain very well. According to Dr. Hafeez, “the more we can activate the cognitive functions of our brains the better our short and long-term memory and hand-eye coordination will be.”

Plan and prepare more meals at home
Instead of committing to a strict diet, incorporate more home-cooked meals into your repertoire. Research shows that food made at home has less fat, calories, and sugar than meals eaten out, even if you’re not specifically trying to prepare and eat healthier meals.

Set a goal to make one new friend a month
As we get older we tend to get stagnant with our friendships and not reach beyond our formed circles anymore. Make an effort to engage the person you always see at your spin class or pass everyday in the hallway at your co-working space. Bringing new people into the fold can add spice and variety to your life.

Do something that scares you
Dr. Hafeez does not mean putting your life at risk. If public speaking has been a thorn in your side, take a class in it, and they put your lessons to use. If you would love to try snow skiing but have been too timid- take a lesson.  Has the travel bug bit you but you don’t have a companion? Throw a dart at a map and travel (safety first) wherever the dart lands. It does not matter what you do, however big or small as long as you try something previously out of your comfort zone. One completed victory will give rise to another.

By Dr. Sanam Hafeez
Connect with her via twitter @comprehendMind or

Wellness Resource

Here’s to You! LLC
Here’s to You! LLC is a coaching resource designed for students and adults that need assistance in achieving goals and identifying ways to overcome challenges. We offer customized coaching plans, online, and in-home services that include, but are not limited to: stress reduction, task initiation, focus/attention, organization, and time management. Whether you have been diagnosed as having a learning disorder or simply feel the need to strengthen your natural talents, we can help. We also offer Licensed Professional Counselor supervision. To learn more, visit

Arlington Ridge Center
A Facility of Arlington Heights Park District
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