Welcome to week three of life on purpose. This week we're gonna talk a lot about research. A lot of science is going to go into this week, and I packed it pretty tight over this week. But by the way, welcome to week three. It's awesome that you're here and that you've gone through the first couple of weeks and now we're really going to start moving into how purpose actually changes our lives. So just to recap in weeks one and two, we defined what purpose was. Then we talked a lot about the philosophical underpinnings of purpose in life. Now we're going to get into how it actually works in science, how it works in the laboratory. And in week four, by the way, we're going to talk about how purpose works in the real world. So let's start by getting into the pathways or mechanisms of how purpose can actually change our lives. And I see three different types of pathways. One would be a psychological pathway, the second would be a behavioral pathway, and the third would be a biological pathway. So we're going to get into all three. We're going to start with this psychological pathway. And we're going to begin with stress or stressors.I like to use the word stressor because stress is really the experience that we might have from stressors. We're not always stressed out by stressors, but I'd like to think about it in terms of having a stressor and then the response to the stressor, which we would call stress. So let's take a look at challenges and stressors in our lives. And initially I'd like to focus on this pathway that with stressors that we might have in our lives. And those stressors could be earthquakes, it could be a tsunami, it could be the loss of a loved one. It could be an illness, it could be cancer, for example, could be COVID-19. It could be lots of different things. The idea here is that when we experience these stressors, purpose in life can buffer the negative impact of that stressor. So let's cover this. We would call that resilience by the way. Has anyone been on the "L" in Chicago? The "L" is a famous subway in Chicago. And what they did was take people south into a more diverse population, a diverse set of stops, where it would be more likely with every stop to have people who are more diverse ethnically. What's been found before is when you're around other people who were ethnically diverse, very often some people get more nervous and stressed out. So this amazing researcher, Anthony burrow at Cornell University, did this study where he asked people before they got on the "L", to either think about their purpose. And they asked these questions and ask the students to write down answers to these questions. What does it mean to have a sense of purpose in your life? What is your purpose in life? Where did your sense of purpose come from? So this was the purpose condition or they had a control condition. What was the last movie you saw? Who are the characters in the movie? What was the plot in the movie? So then they had people get onto the subway. Remember two different groups think about it like almost a randomized drug trial where you have the active drug and you have a placebo. Here you're having the students get on the subway heading south to increasingly diverse subway stops with increasingly diverse populations in every car. And one group, they asked them to think more about their purpose. The other group, they ask them to think about the last movie they saw in the characters in the movie. So they take off. What happens to these people? First of all, there was a person, a researcher in each car, and that researcher monitored just how diverse stop got. And they also asked every subject to just write down at every stop how nervous and stressed are you. And here's what they found. They found by the last stop that the people who just thought about the last movie they saw in the characters in the movie were pretty distressed, alone and afraid. In fact, on a scale of zero to seven, they were 4.7. That's pretty high overall. Look at the difference though, between that group and the group of people who just wrote down their purpose in life on a scale of zero to seven 1.2. That is amazing. In other words, people who are just less distressed, alone, and afraid in a diverse setting, around a diverse group of people if they had thought about their purpose in their life. An amazing study, Tony Burrow, great researcher at Cornell University, led that research.How about when you're applying for a job? This is another really cool study. So they ask college students to go in front of a group of confederates. Confederates are just people who are part of the research team. And they asked the student, the subject in this study, to explain why they were right for this particular job. So they gave them a job description and they asked them to get to the front of the room and say, here's why I'm right for this job. But the confederates said, "Oh, I don't know," they shook their heads," I don't know if you're the right person." And they were saying that,mumbling this just to give that indication, that subtle indication to the presenter while they're saying I'm right for this job, that the audience wasn't buying into it. So if you're applying for a job and people are going, "I don't know," that would cause a lot of stress, right? So they monitored stress by looking at cortisol levels. Cortisol is often called our stress hormone. So they're looking at cortisol levels before, during, and after this job talk. And so that's represented here in this box. So over time they were looking at levels of cortisol and they looked at people with a low purpose in life versus people with a high purpose in life. And let's start with this group of people who had a low purpose. Their cortisol levels went way up during this job talk. And when they saw the audience shaking their heads going, "I don't think so" their cortisol level went way up and then it recovered over time. The group with a high purpose in their life also experienced that, by the way. So it wasn't like they didn't get stressed out. People with a high purpose do get stressed out, but they recovered so much faster. That's what's key. So the group that was very purposeful got stressed, got freaked out a little bit, but recovered and basically said," what am I gonna do about this?" That recovery period in this shade is really the difference in success, I would say in performance under a challenge. So in other words, these studies are kind of showing that if you have a strong purpose, it can buffer the influence of some stressor. Hope that's making sense to you. Now let's take a look at your brain and what's happening. So there's a really cool study looking at what happens. They put people into MRI, Magnetic Resonance Imaging. They showed them images such as a dog starting to attack them. And that was designed to increase this part of the brain that we've talked about before, called the amygdala. This is our fear and aggression center, very old center, over a 100 million years old, very reptilian part of our brain. And then we have this ventral medial prefrontal cortex. You've heard me talk about this. This is a very human part of our brains. Primates have a lot of this. We have more than any other primate of this ventral medial prefrontal cortex. We're gonna get into that this week quite a bit more. But if you're in MRI and you're having your brain scanned and suddenly an image of a rabid dog is lunging at you and attacking you, what happens almost right away, within a matter of a second or two is that, that amygdala gets more blood flow. So you end up with lots of activity in your fear and aggression center. And at the same time, your ventral medial prefrontal cortex shrinks down in activity. Just imagine this in the real-world, something's really scaring you. You freak out. And you're also not thinking very clearly because you're just too busy being scared. You get that hair-raising experience, right? If you've ever seen a horror movie or you listen to the media sometimes about horrific things, your amygdala can start flashing and it set fear and aggression center. That's kinda dominating your behavior then, and you're VmPFC or ventral medial prefrontal cortex, your decision-making isn't doing very well. It turns out for healthy people, for resilient people, that within a couple of seconds, the amygdala starts shrinking again as the VmPFC actually becomes more active. Now think about what's happening for a second. At first, you're freaked out and the amygdala is going, wow, you're scared right now and at the same time you're not thinking. But within a couple of seconds you go, "Okay, what do I do about this? What do I do about this problem?" And that's where this ventral medial prefrontal cortex is very active and the amygdala starts shrinking down. Isn't that cool? So that's what happens among resilient people. Not everybody is resilient unfortunately. People who have been abused as children very often don't have that bounce. I love to call it a bouncer because the amygdala and the ventral medial prefrontal cortex engaged in this dance. You really need both. It's really important to have that fear center. But if the fear center keeps dominating, then you're just going to be scared all the time or aggressive all the time. Kids who have gone through emotional abuse and then start growing up very often don't have that bounce when they're scared, when they're when they're threatened with a stressor or a challenge, they just get scared or aggressive. And that's a real problem, isn't it? So there is a study that just came out very recently, a super cool study, looking at adults and ask them how purposeful they were, how strong their purpose in life was, but then also ask them to recall whether they had any abuse as children. So of all the people who were abused as kids, we know that there's a higher level of depression overall, just on average. There's greater level of depressive symptoms among adults who were abused as children. They wanted to find out whether purpose was actually buffering this impact. So in other words, if you were abused as a child, but now as an adult have a strong purpose in your life, do you have as many depressive symptoms? So let's start by looking at the adults who cited emotional abuse as a child. And they can look at a range. It could have been mild abuse all the way to really severe abuse. And they looked at their depressive symptoms. Let's look at the adults who have a low purpose in their lives. If you have a lot of abuse, you have many more depressive symptoms. That's in the red line. So you see this line that's increasing over the level of emotional abuse that you report having suffered as a child. So if you have more emotional abuse and a low purpose, you have far more depressive symptoms. Let's look at the people as adults who have a high strong purpose in their lives. There's no relationship at all that's in the green line. You see that regardless of the amount of emotional abuse, that you reported it as a child, if you're an adult with a strong purpose in your life, it doesn't impact the amount of depressive symptoms that you have. In fact there rather low. So this again is that buffering hypothesis at work, we see this as what's called a statistical interaction. So there is an interaction where purpose in life becomes a moderating factor, moderates the impact of childhood abuse on your depressive symptoms. So this is again, this buffering hypothesis related to a stressor, purpose and resilience. So a person who probably represents resilience more than anyone in my mind is Viktor Frankl. Viktor Frankl, as we've mentioned in previous week, had gone through three different concentration camps. He was made the physician to prisoners in these camps because he was a physician, but he also was a prisoner himself. And he noticed that many of the prisoners would die of illness, they would die of starvation,often they were just simply murdered outright. But he found that people who had a stronger purpose and could maintain a stronger purpose and meaning in their lives were more likely to survive if they weren't murdered outright. So this is kind of the classic case of purpose buffering the impact of extreme stressors and making people more resilient. And in fact, he wrote in Man's Search for Meaning, "Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on.He was soon lost." So this sums it up for me.