Finding Purpose Reduces Anxiety and Depression

“If research really shows that finding purpose could help with my depression and anxiety, why haven’t any of my doctors suggested that?” my client asked with exasperation and desperation.

“Great question!” I responded. “My guess is that many are unaware of the research.” 

I left her thinking as I continued.

“And to the credit of doctors and psychiatrists, they likely think you’ve already tried all of these other things before making an appointment with them for medication evaluation,” I suggested.

Almost begging for affirmation, my client said in a pleading voice: “Do you believe it could help?”

“Absolutely … I believe it can and will help! That’s why I’ve been suggesting we do some purpose work!”

I also shared with her, that it’s not just my opinion and my clinical experience.

In 2023, an article published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology reported: “Across samples, greater purpose in life was significantly associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety.”

Think of the times you were a part of making an event happen. You looked forward to doing your part and playing your role in making it happen. 


Because the task and role you’d be contributing was in your wheelhouse of can do’s! No one had to motivate you and you didn’t have to motivate yourself. You woke up and you were “on” … and you knew it!

Bingo! That’s what experiencing PURPOSE…feels like! 

Through the years, I have watched people’s lives transform as they discover their purpose, and step into a life of fulfillment.

I knew my client was desperate for relief from her depression and anxiety. I shared Natalie’s story with her and wanted to share it with you too. Hoping that if you’re struggling with depression and/or anxiety … you too will consider investigating your purpose to find relief!

As I’ve shared over the past few weeks, I asked people who’d attended Power of Purpose if they would be willing to share their stories about how finding their purpose had affected their lives.

I was amazed and honored how many responses I received.

I hope that these stories are inspiring you to find and live a life of meaning and purpose!

1. What is your trauma?

“Clearly, I wasn’t wanted. I’ve heard my whole life that I was an accident.” Natalie shared.

“I can’t really say that my childhood was all that bad. I guess. But for some reason, it felt bad to me.”

“No matter what I asked for, the response began with the deep, somewhat disgusting sigh. Normally followed by being ignored, or a harsh ‘NO’!”

“I know they struggled financially, but that wasn’t my fault. But maybe in their eyes, it was.”

“Birthdays were an afterthought. Like a drive-through the Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone was a treat, although they let me know it was an inconvenience.”

Survival is our common language as humans. When something threatens our peace and sense belonging, we’re pre-programmed to substitute

emotions for the emotions being challenged in that moment, with survival ones to feel safe and be ok with and for everyone else … but us.

Temporary wiring becomes permanent without us even knowing. And around the tree of good and evil we dance.

“I walked around on eggshells, because I knew that doing or saying anything that irritated them could result in anything from a lack of privileges for months, to an hour beat down about what I’d done or not done, said or not said, or just about who I was.”

“So, I learned to live my life as secluded and isolated as possible.”

“Because of the 10-year age difference between me and my older siblings, they were gone a lot.”

“They didn’t like me either because they had to watch me often. Although they didn’t really watch me when I was left with them. They didn’t have to. Because I knew to stay out of their hair.”

“All I remember was being sad, lonely, and scared to death about what might set any of them off.”

“In fourth grade, we were supposed to be climbing a rope in gym class. I simply could not make it to the top.”

“In exasperation, the coach locked me in a very small, dark, damp janitor’s closet.”

“All I could imagine was that there were snakes, spiders, or horrible things in there … and I began screaming. I screamed and screamed, and finally at the end of the day someone let me out.”

“I remember going home trembling and crying.”

“I went straight to my room. Later, one of my parents came in to tell me dinner was on the stove. (I usually ate after them). I just shook my head no, and continued sobbing my heart out.”

“I heard my dad on the phone calling the doctor. The phone was on speaker so I could hear both sides of the conversation. My dad said that I needed some kind of medication because I was having a nervous breakdown.”

“The doctor asked what had happened? My dad responded that he had no idea.”

“The doctor asked if he had asked what happened?” 

“My dad repeated that he had no idea what had happened. The doctor suggested he ask me, then call him back.”

“I was nervous about what I’d say, but a little bit relieved that someone might ask me.”

“He hung up, and never came to my room. I cried myself to sleep, and it was never mentioned again. That’s just one of many stories that let me know I was not wanted, and that I was an inconvenience.”

(A note…Part of our survival bent becomes the downgrading of the mental strains of the painful moments from our past. The ones that forced us to rewire just to survive them and feel ok again…

They continue to be our “go to” responses when a hint of a similar type of emotional uncertainty confronts us…

Our voice of purpose lies tangled inside these substitute counterfeit thought processes, that are and never were ours to begin with. As Dr. John Bradshaw put it: “That’s why we create a false self from the need to survive.”)

“Nothing really bad ever happened to me, but I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I was not wanted.”

“I’m not sure if that really qualifies as trauma or not.”

“They talked about me ‘not being right’ a lot. I’m not sure if that meant they thought I was crazy or what … but I believed them, and assumed something was terribly wrong with me.”

“When I graduated, I knew I was not college material. Not sure if they ever said that, but I know they believed it, and so did I.”

“I got a job on the bus line (because I had no car), doing data entry. At least I could type, and it paid enough that I could move out and into an apartment with three other girls within a few months.”

“I didn’t know I was depressed. I just felt the same way I had felt my whole life. But they were different.”

“They laughed; they went places they did fun things.”

“They invited me to go to the state fair with them once. I saved up my money, and I was so nervous about going. I didn’t know what to wear, how to act, or what to expect.”

“We arrived, and I realized that you had to have a lot of money to ride the rides, play the games, and eat the food.”

“I think it was my first panic attack.”

“I couldn’t breathe, I was shaking, and I was dizzy. I tried frantically to hide it from all of them. I thought for a few moments that I might be having a heart attack because of the pain in my chest. But I knew I had to look and act normal.” 

“I vowed to never go out like that again. And I didn’t the whole time we lived together.”

“After a few years, and several raises, I was able to afford to live alone.”

“One day, I heard some people talking in the break room about having education benefits. I found a catalog for the community college and decided to take a class. I had no plan, but I had done fairly well in English and school, so I signed up for that class.”

“Other than the panic attacks before tests, I did OK. I signed up for more classes. Eventually, I had an AA Degree in journalism.”

“While in that program, one of my professors recommended me to a position in a media company.”

“Within a few years, I was doing minor reporting on special projects for a small, rural town. Within the next two years, I became the local evening news anchor.”

“You would’ve never known watching the broadcast that I was plagued with depression and anxiety. Somehow, I was able to put it all aside for that time each evening.”

“Once my benefits with health insurance kicked in, I began my journey with medication. Too many antidepressants to count, too many anti-anxiety drugs to remember. Still struggling, and with each visit, there was something else to try.”

“My station sent me to the Power of Purpose to cover the story. Because it was the third time in a year that the program had come to our town, I guess they thought it was newsworthy. For me it was just another assignment.”

“I had no idea my life was about to change. All I knew was there was no one depressed or anxious in that room! And if there was something to what I was witnessing, I wanted to know about it!” 

Data has proven recently that 75% of our thinking and reactions our ruled by our subconscious. Unresolved trauma (hidden in our subconscious) amplifies those voices of defeat that were hard wired in those moments of fear, pain, shame, or horror from our past. 

They’re the voices that keep us cycling in denial mode, convincing us that what happened to us wasn’t that bad. That it just didn’t matter that much.

If that’s true …

Then why do we deny that those moments don’t matter …

And then wonder if they do …

And then wonder why we do what we do?

Because they do matter. And behind that wall, deep inside, is our purpose. 

2. What is your purpose?

“I secretly watched, wishing I could be inside one of those circles. I saw tears, I saw laughter, I saw connection.”

“Yes! That’s it! … it was the connection that got me.”

“This small-town Iowa girl had never seen anything or felt what those people were experiencing.”

“Then when I heard you say that one of the researched benefits of finding purpose was that anxiety and depression were reduced … that really got my attention! For a moment, time stood still. There was wind in my ears. Everything inside me quieted and I heard those words echoing again and again.”

“I knew I had to ask you for an interview, even though I knew that it would likely not be used in the story.”

“I don’t know if you remember me asking you so many questions about depression and anxiety … but I just had to know.”

“I knew halfway through the day, that I had to come back and attend the program myself.”

“When I asked you when you would be back, and you said nothing was scheduled … I could feel the depression creeping up on me, and the anxiety rising in my chest, choking me.”

“I remember thinking… ‘What is this? Some kind of cosmic joke? That I think I found something that might help me, and it’s just slipping away?”

“If you had not asked if I might like for you to send me dates in other cities … I think I would’ve given up hope that very moment.”

“I remember saying: ‘YES! Please’!”

“But I had never traveled much and didn’t know if I would even have the courage to do it. And to be honest, I thought you might just forget.”

“When I got your email that night, I knew when I saw your name in my inbox that I just had to come to one of the dates. Little did I know that within 10 days I would be on a plane to Seattle, Washington.”

“I couldn’t believe you recognized me and remembered my name! I guess it made me feel wanted.”

“The way you had us select groups was so much fun, and just like you said to all of us, ‘Everyone always ends up in the right group’!”

“I have to tell you that I had never in my life previously felt so loved, so accepted, and so connected!”

“I think the piece that was most powerful to me was about the elephants and breaking free. I loved the circus as a little girl, and something about that story and that exercise really did set me free!”

“By the end of the second piece on purpose, I knew something was happening in me.”

“When you talked about returning to our seats, and allowing the letter to pour out … I had no idea what was about to happen.”

“Those are the kinds of moments when the panic normally revs up. But when I sat down in my chair and read that paragraph … peace, yes peace I had never felt before flowed all over me. Without one moment of anxiety, or worry if I was doing it right … I started writing.”

“My purpose:

To have others believe, and find resources to deal with depression and anxiety, so they can live a wonderful life!” 

“In the closing circle, I had no plans to speak up. All I knew was that I didn’t want it to end.”

“When you looked at me and smiled, I knew I had to reach for the microphone. When the words came out of my mouth… ‘I never want this to end, because I’ve never felt connection like this in my whole life!’ Then the whole circle closed around me in a huge hug, and you played that song again… ‘Love can build a bridge …’ I knew I was changed forever!”

“And I knew my purpose!”

There’s an ancient proverb that declares, “As a person thinks, so are they.”

I’ve given my life for this truth … when our hearts align with our thinking and our thinking aligns with our hearts … purpose is born.

3. What difference has it made in your life?

“Well … a wonderful marriage, and four kids later … I haven’t forgotten what the years of the dark depression, and the crippling anxiety were like. But they are practically strangers to me, and certainly no longer welcome in my life.”

“When I got back to the station after that weekend, everyone had the same question: ‘What happened to you’?”

“I really didn’t have the words to describe it, but I knew my purpose. And I knew my life was going to change dramatically. And it did!”

“Within months, I had been accepted into the master’s program for social work. It was the only way I knew to get started.”

“Today, my business of going into communities and setting up centers with resources and support systems to help people with depression and anxiety has over 40 locations, and great results daily.”

“People should not have to live with depression and anxiety. My desire is to leave no one struggling to struggle alone.”

“Of course, we have a long way to go … but we’re making progress, and lives are being influenced for good.”

“What would I say to your audience?

Be honest with yourself about your struggle, then do whatever it takes to find your purpose.  Knowing it’s very likely that your purpose will be in the area where you once struggled.”

“Finding purpose is a key resource in each of our centers. I cannot even imagine what my life would look like today had I not found my purpose.”

“Although it was a process and I worked closely with my doctors in, I’m medication free and living my purpose! I can’t imagine life being any better, but I know the more people we reach, the greater the fulfillment will be!”

“My husband and my kids are my greatest cheerleaders. My kids are all advocates for health and wellness in their schools and jobs. It’s a life I never dreamed I would have.”

“Purpose opens doors that nothing else can open!”


I hope Natalie’s story inspired you.

I identified deeply with her story, because prior to finding purpose, my life was marked with ongoing depression and severe anxiety.

Thankfully, they are both strangers to me now, as they are to Natalie. And they are no longer welcome in my life either!

If you struggle with depression and anxiety, I know you’d love to call them strangers too!

It is possible.

Gathering data from 89 studies and over 66,000 individuals … research conducted by Nicola Schutte, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New England in Australia, reported:

“Our meta-analysis found that across studies greater purpose in life was associated with fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.” 

Natalie’s story revealed it to be true.

My life has revealed it to be true.

Thousands of clients and workshop participants have revealed it to be true.

Research has revealed it to be true.

Now it’s your turn.

Find purpose and allow it to wash away depression and anxiety!

That’s my hope and prayer for you.

“If you’re willing to lose the life you have, that’s when and how you find life.”


PS – If you’d like info about the Power of Purpose, click here: