Wondering "What's The Point Of Life?" Let's Talk About It
Aug 24, 2023, 10 min read
There is a big difference between being curious about your purpose in the world, and feeling like you don’t have one. If the question of “What’s the point of life?” has been on your mind recently, you may want to explore how you are feeling in more detail.
Here, we’re helping you identify if you are simply curious about life’s meaning or experiencing a type of depression, and breaking down the steps to finding your purpose in life.
At Augmentive, we aim to provide holistic, tailored mental health support to everyone so they can live their life to the fullest, so if you have questions about the purpose of life or symptoms of depression, we’re here to help.
Why you might be asking what the point of life is
Lots of people wonder about the meaning of life, and it’s normal to occasionally have thoughts like ‘Why are we all here?’, ‘What is my reason for existing?’, and ‘What should I be doing with my days on earth?’ However, if you are asking yourself this question too much and not finding any answers, this can lead to negative thought patterns.
If you feel like you are in a rut in life, you should first consider if there are any external circumstances making you question things recently, such as too much work stress, losing a loved one, a recent trauma, an illness or injury, having a child, or something else.
Big life changes can prompt big questions, but conversely, experiencing no change in life for a long time can also cause us to question things. According to research, 57% of Americans say they wonder about how they can find more meaning and purpose in their life at least monthly, and 21% think this daily or weekly.
Signs it could be low mood or depression
If you find yourself constantly trying to figure out the point in life, and enjoying it less as a result, then you may be experiencing low mood or depression. This could last just a few days or persist for weeks or months.
Symptoms of low mood include feelings of sadness, fatigue, trouble sleeping, low confidence or self-esteem, a negative mindset, a reduced ability to experience pleasure (otherwise known as anhedonia) and more. Depression, on the other hand, can cause more severe low mood symptoms like suicidal ideation and feelings of worthlessness and pointlessness — this feeling of pointlessness is why some people confuse depression with a general curiosity about the meaning of life.
There are several different types of depression, including:
- Endogenous Depression — can cause persistent and intense feelings of sadness (also known as Major Depressive Disorder or Clinical Depression)
- Dysthymia — mild, constant depression lasting for 2+ years (also known as Persistent Depressive Disorder or Chronic Depression)
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — mainly experienced during winter months due to lack of sunlight
- Reactive Depression — can be triggered by traumatic events like divorce or death (also known as Exogenous Depression)
- Postnatal Depression — experienced after childbirth and is often hormone-related
- Psychotic Depression — serious depression that can cause hallucinations
- Manic Depression — periods of extreme low mood (also known as Bipolar Disorder)
If you believe you may have depression but you are unsure which kind applies to you, speak to a mental health professional with experience in treating this condition. At Augmentive, our free 15 minute consultation can help get you on the right track.
So... what is the point of life?
Great question! And one many have tried and failed to definitively answer over the years. This is because the meaning of life is subjective and individual to each person. One person’s purpose in life won’t be exactly the same as someone else’s.
One study by Pew Research Center found 38% of people said family gave the most meaning to their life, while 25% said their occupation or career, and 19% said material wellbeing. Other areas of life mentioned in the study included:
- Friends and community
- Physical and mental health
- Freedom and independence
- Hobbies and recreation
- Education and learning
- Nature and the outdoors
- Romantic partners
- …and more
It is clear that everyone’s idea of their purpose, and what life is all about, is completely different. In the same survey, ‘job’ was listed as one of the top three things that give meaning to people, but this was not consistent across the world; 43% in Italy say their job is the meaning of their life, whereas only 6% said the same in South Korea. As another example, health was a priority for 48% of people in Spain, but only 6% of people in Taiwan.
You may also feel you have multiple purposes; 34% of survey respondents only mentioned one of the topics listed, while others expressed 2 or more as their purpose.
Is it a lack of purpose, or depression?
So, how do you know if you are questioning the meaning of life from a place of curiosity, or experiencing feelings of pointlessness due to depression?
In general, depression is typically diagnosed based on someone experiencing low mood symptoms lasting longer than 2 weeks (among other things). It may also cause someone to harbour a belief that their life has no meaning without taking any steps to feel better or find purpose. On the other hand, a regular level of curiosity about the meaning of life may have you questioning and considering your purpose in life in a more hopeful, investigative way, and believing there must be a satisfactory answer.
Another feature of depression, according to a review of studies, is risk-taking behaviour such as self-harm and heavy alcohol use. This is taken into account when diagnosing the condition. Risk-taking could support the idea that those with depression believe their life has no meaning, and therefore are willing to take more risks than the average person.
If you think you may be suffering from depression, there are a number of resources that can help (more on these later), but having a sense of purpose in life could put you on track to feeling better. In fact, an analysis of studies found having a sense of purpose led to fewer risky behaviours for over 90% of people in the sample.
If you don’t know what your purpose is yet, there are steps you can take to discover this.
Important: If you believe you may have symptoms of depression (particularly if you are taking risks and doing things that could put yourself or others in danger) you should seek medical assistance straight away. In the UK you can call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans, 111 for non-urgent advice, or call 999 if you or someone else’s life is at risk.
How to find meaning in your life
It is normal to analyse your emotional patterns, but unfortunately there is no calculation, blueprint or handbook for analysing the meaning of your life, since everyone discovers different meanings to life in different ways. Finding the meaning of your life may seem like a daunting task, but it can also be thought of as an exciting blank canvas.
Whether you are feeling lost and want to discover your purpose in life, or you are experiencing symptoms of depression and want to discuss this with someone who can help, you will need to proceed in a way that works best for you and your individual circumstances.
At Augmentive, we believe treatment for depression and other mental health conditions should be bespoke and tailored to the individual, so if you would like to discuss the meaning of your life — for any reason — we recommend speaking to a therapist who can help guide these thoughts in a positive direction. Our free 15 minute consultation can match you with the most relevant specialist.
Generally, tips for finding the meaning of your life could include:
Understanding why purpose is important
There are many benefits to knowing what you want to do with your life. Studies have found that regardless of age, having a strong sense of purpose is associated with fewer feelings of loneliness, and other positive emotions. Even if you experience a low mood, simply understanding the importance of finding your purpose could bring you closer to feeling better.
Identify who you are
Consider what traits you have, your personality, what makes you tick, what you value most, what excites you about life, and so on. If you are feeling lost, exploring your identity in more depth and being clear on your values in life could help you learn more about yourself and live each day more aligned with what you believe in.
One study found that people more likely to say they have greater purpose in their lives include those who strongly believe hard work is its own reward (74%), those who strongly believe they have personal agency (68%), those who strongly believe in personal responsibility (60%), those who are very compassionate (58%), those who are not envious (70%), and those who are not resentful (63%). Consider whether or not you identify with any of these beliefs, or something else, as these could form a starting point for discovering your purpose.
Have a goal
Studies show goal-setting interventions are particularly effective for students struggling to maintain a positive mindset and motivation to study. By doing reflection exercises, they were able to change their mindset, foster a sense of purpose, and protect their level of study engagement.
Thinking about your life aspirations and having a sense of direction is one of the best ways to alleviate feelings of pointlessness. This can be a huge life goal you work towards every day, or a series of small goals you complete in a few hours, days, weeks or months. Either way, a goal can be something to work towards which directs all of your actions, and self reflection focused on this goal helps drive purpose.
Identify your values (things you consider important, that matter to you) and reflect on your strengths (things you’re good at) and connect those to your goals, so you know you’re leveraging the right parts of yourself to move forward. Keeping a journal of thoughts and feelings can help to maintain and document that focus - it doesn’t need to be in depth, just a couple of lines or even just some drawings to act as memory “prompts” - and setting aside a little time each day, week, or month to review and mentally “debrief” how things have gone recently can also be immensely helpful.
Connect with something bigger
One of the best ways to find a sense of purpose and boost your zest for life is to connect with something larger than yourself. This might mean joining a group or community that is doing something positive. It could mean taking on a volunteer project that works towards the greater good. Or it could mean learning about the world around you and experiencing awe by exploring its beauty and considering your role in the ecosystem. Think of ways you can connect with something bigger than yourself for a new perspective on life.
“Everyone is here to fill in the holes in other people's lives, whether little or big holes. Not everybody is the same, and we all need to share our talents and strengths to uplift other people.” - 17-year-old Gallup survey respondent
How to feel better if you are experiencing low mood or depression
As above, advice and support for those with low mood or depression should be bespoke and individualised, as what works for one person may not work for another. It is always best to consult a healthcare professional about your symptoms and let them know your unique experience so they can recommend the best ways for you to feel better.
Some general ways to tackle low mood or depression include:
- Talk about it: Keeping your feelings to yourself is never a good option. Talk to someone you trust to get some perspective and feel more connected.
- Eat well: A healthy diet is an easy way to boost your mood. You could start by avoiding processed foods, since studies show heavily processed foods are linked to depression.
- Exercise: This doesn’t need to be anything too strenuous or sweaty. Even a gentle walk could improve your mood by moving your body and getting out in nature.
- Improve your sleep: Poor sleeping habits can affect your mood more than you might think, so spend some time creating a better sleep routine to improve your mood.
- Keep taking part in things: Even if you don’t feel like it, keep turning up to enjoyable social activities as this can lift your mood over time.
If you are thinking of exploring treatment options for depression, the ones often recommended by specialists include:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) — A type of talking therapy helping address underlying thoughts and behaviours.
- Interpersonal Therapy — A type of therapy focused on how our relationships affect us, and how mental health issues can affect relationships as a result.
- Psychodynamic Therapy — A type of therapy using self-reflection and examination to get to the core of feelings.
- EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) — A type of therapy helping people heal from trauma and emotional distress.
- Medications — In around 50-70% of patients, medications can be effective for treating depression, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
- Existential Psychotherapy — A type of therapy that uses a range of approaches and touches on philosophy to understand the human experience. This could be a useful therapy to help people explore the meaning of life.
- Some other creative forms of therapy that could help you explore the subject of the meaning of life in an alternative way include things like art therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, and dance movement psychotherapy.
What to do if your feelings persist
If you aren’t sure if you are suffering from depression, or you continue to have unexplained feelings and questions about the meaning of life, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone to discuss it. This might be with a trusted friend or family member, or with a specialist who can draw from their experience to help you make sense of your thoughts. Talking out loud about your feelings can help, which is where a therapist or similar professional support can come in.
If you have a question about a mental health condition, or are just wondering "what is wrong with me" all the time, we’re here to assist on your journey. Our free 15 minute consultation can guide you to the most relevant specialists to answer your questions and discuss next steps.
Whether you’re feeling off-kilter or want to shake up your routine, our state-of-the-art mental wellbeing platform gives you quick and seamless access to world-class support on your terms, from private psychiatric assessments and reviews to broader private mental health care.