I feel I have no purpose in life

Psychologies' agony aunt, Mary Fenwick, offers her advice


I feel I have no purpose in life

I’m overwhelmed by a sense of meaninglessness. I’m 45 and have a good life. I like my job and have great friends, but sometimes I feel I have no purpose. Is this all there is? I don’t think I’m depressed, but sometimes I feel that if I died tomorrow, it would be a relief. I like my life, so I don’t know what to do about this underlying feeling of ‘what’s the point?’ Help. Alice

I love the fact that you are asking: ‘Is that all there is?’ just like that classic song sung by Peggy Lee. It’s a fantastic question, and takes courage to voice. It could be called a spiritual quest, a philosophical enquiry or a mid-life turning-point. I think it is worth consulting your GP before dismissing depression, because it does not just mean sadness; it can also be the woolly greyness you describe. The reason for checking is that untreated depression might affect your ability to assess your other options. 

Where might we start when you are medically clear? I talked to a friend who is involved in Buddhist chaplaincy. He recommends a book by the Dalai Lama called Beyond Religion: Ethics For A Whole World, which explores spirituality outside a specific religious tradition. However, I would also ask whether there is a church in your own cultural heritage that calls to you on any level. I’m not suggesting that you make a radical conversion, but perhaps start with something that’s connected with people or places you love. 

You will find a distillation of the latest scientific research about mental wellbeing at Action for Happiness. AfH runs eight-week courses, and you can search online for a local group on Meetup. I went to my local Action for Happiness group last night, feeling exhausted and anxious about my mother in hospital on the other side of the world. Talking to a bunch of strangers helped – who knew?  Actually I already knew, but I needed to experience it again.) And take a look at Psychologies’ Happiness Clubs.

Finally, please let me urge you not to just read about this, but to do something. Your happiness, which includes a sense of meaning, is definitely worth it for you, your family and your impact in this world.

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line

Photograph: Istock