'What's the Point of Life?': Why You Might Feel This Way

older person depressed while thinking on their bed

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It's normal for everyone to wonder about their purpose. At times, however, you might question existence to the point where you wonder, "What's the point in life?" When such feelings are accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, sadness, and disinterest, it might signify a mental health condition such as depression.

For some people, the purpose of life may be to make the world a better place. Others may believe that the point of life is to find and achieve personal fulfillment. And some may feel that the point of life is simply to enjoy it as much as possible.

Finding a sense of meaning in life can be difficult for anyone, but it can be particularly challenging when struggling with low mood and feelings of depression. If you find yourself struggling to make sense of your life and its purpose, it can be helpful to learn more about why you might feel this way and what you can do to bring a sense of meaning into your life.

Signs You Feel That Life Is Pointless

There are a number of signs that you might be struggling to see the point in life. Sometimes you might think "what's the point," but in other cases, these feelings can be less obvious:

  • You might feel like nothing you do matters
  • You may have stopped caring about the outcome of events
  • Things that used to bring you joy may ring hollow or seem empty
  • You might feel a sense of hopelessness
  • You might feel like none of your efforts will help you achieve your goals and aspirations

Why You Might Feel This Way

Everyone experiences times during their life when they feel like they aren't sure about their purpose. They might feel lost. They might not be sure about who they are. Or they might wonder if there is some greater meaning to life that they just can't seem to see. 

There are many different reasons why someone might feel like they don't know the point of life.

  • You might be going through something stressful or difficult that has you questioning what it all means.
  • You might feel unfulfilled in your work, school, relationships, or hobbies and wonder if there's something more that you are missing.
  • It might feel like your accomplishments don't really matter or don't have much of an impact.
  • You might be feeling uncertain about what you should be doing with your life or what steps you need to take next.
  • You might be struggling to set goals because you are not sure what you really want.
  • You might have a mood disorder such as major depressive disorder, dysthymia, or bipolar disorder

Whatever the reason, it's important to remember that you're not alone in feeling this way. Taking steps to find what has meaning to you is an important first step.

Depression and Feelings of Pointlessness

People who have depression frequently experience a sense of pointlessness. For many, everything seems meaningless. According to some research, losing this ability to see the point and purpose in life might actually play a part in the onset of depression.

In a 2019 study published in the journal Qualitative Psychology, researchers found that many people living with depression felt that their depressive symptoms were related to changes in life that impacted the things they felt gave their life meaning.

As people lost their sense of purpose, they also began to experience other symptoms such as declining energy levels and physical activity. Despite adverse effects on their physical and psychological experiences, they remained focused on the threats to their goals, values, and purpose.

It seems that experiencing events that affect your sense of meaning is linked to the onset of depression. Whether this plays a role in creating depression is a question that researchers still need to explore in greater depth.

Many other factors are known to play a role in depression, including genetics, experiences, brain chemistry, and lifestyle factors. In many cases, negative life experiences may trigger the onset of depression in people who are predisposed to the condition.

If other symptoms accompany this sense of pointlessness, it might be a sign that what you are experiencing is actually depression. Other signs to watch for include: 

  • A persistent low mood marked by sadness or emptiness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling guilty, hopeless, or helpless
  • Losing interest in things that you used to enjoy
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Slowed physical activity
  • Problems concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Physical complaints that don't have a clear cause
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

What Gives Life Meaning?

Many different things can give life meaning, and these vary from one person to the next. For some people, their relationships with family and friends are what give them a sense of meaning and purpose.

Others might find meaning in their work, hobbies, or creative passions. And for others, their spirituality or religious beliefs help them find the point in life.

What matters most is what you believe is most important to you. Everyone has different values and beliefs that give their life meaning. There is no wrong answer. What gives someone else a sense of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment might not be helpful for you—and that's fine. 

If you're feeling lost or uncertain about what the point of life is, it might be helpful to think about what matters most to you. What are your values and beliefs? What do you enjoy doing? What makes you feel happy and fulfilled?

Spending time thinking about what matters most to you can help you find meaning in your life. And it can also help you figure out what you want to do with your time and energy.

Strategies That Can Help

Finding the point in life can be difficult when you are dealing with depression. It is important to treat yourself with kindness and compassion, even when feeling unmotivated or apathetic

Even when you are struggling to find interest in anything, you can take steps to help gradually improve your mood and find your sense of purpose. It takes time, support, and often professional interventions in the form of therapy and medication, but over time, you can rediscover your sense of meaning.

There are many different ways to find meaning in life. These strategies can help you find ways to make your life feel more meaningful.

Helping Others

Volunteering your time to help others can be a source of purpose. Research has found that people who engage in altruistic behaviors, which involve helping other people, feel more connected to other people and tend to have a stronger sense that their life has meaning. 

Examples of prosocial actions you might take include volunteering for a cause you are passionate about, donating money to charities, or offering to help a friend in need. Contributing to something that feels bigger than yourself can help you feel that your efforts have meaning and that you are making a difference in the world.

Cultivating Relationships

Spending time with friends and family. Healthy and supportive interpersonal relationships are essential for both physical and mental health. Research has found that these relationships help lower the risk of heart disease, help make us more resilient to stress, and decrease the risk of depression and suicide.

Having the support of friends, family, partners, and others can help you feel more motivated and inspired to care for yourself and take an interest in the world around you. And investing your energy in these relationships can be helpful when you are looking for meaning or a sense of purpose.

Pursuing Your Interests

Pursuing hobbies or activities you enjoy can be an effective way to bring meaning into your life. Focus on doing work that is meaningful to you, whether it involves pursuing a career that you love, developing your creative skills, or simply enjoying your leisurely pastimes. 

Being creative can be a tool of self-expression and can help you develop new interests as well. Consider trying out a new hobby or activity that you haven't tried before, such as learning how to bake, paint, dance, or sculpt.

Building Your Awareness

Becoming more aware of your own thoughts, interests, and connections to the world around you can also be helpful when you are questioning the point of life.

Practicing meditation or mindfulness are ways to become more aware of your own thoughts and how you feel in the present moment. Spend some time in reflection and focus on living in the present moment rather than worrying about the past or the future.

Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude, or the act of feeling and expressing thankfulness for the things that you appreciate in life has been shown to have a range of benefits. It can strengthen relationships, improve happiness, boost resilience, and improve overall health.

It may also help you find greater meaningfulness in life. Research has shown that gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions. This may also encourage people to savor the moment and enjoy the pleasures that life can bring. 

Making an effort to practice gratitude regularly, whether you take a few moments each day to mentally focus on grateful thoughts or you write in a gratitude journal, can help you become more aware of the good things in life. Over time, this practice may help shift your perspective. Instead of feeling that life is pointless, you'll begin to see all of the simple joys that give life meaning.

Other Ways to Find Meaning In Life

  • Connect with nature
  • Try new things
  • Embrace your imperfections
  • Be yourself
  • Accept that life is uncertain
  • Savor the simple things in life
  • Take time for yourself
  • Find the humor in life and be willing to laugh at yourself

It is important to remember that it may take time and exploration before you find what works for you.

How to Get Help

Don't be afraid to reach out for help. If you're struggling to find meaning in your life, there are many resources and people who can help. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, a counselor or therapist, or a religious leader. They can offer support and guidance as you search for meaning.

Remember, everyone goes through periods where they question what the point of life is. But there is no right or wrong answer. What matters most is how you choose to live your life and what you believe is most important to you.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Desai MU, Wertz FJ, Davidson L, Karasz A. An investigation of experiences diagnosed as depression in primary care—From the perspective of the diagnosed. Qualitative Psychology. 2019;6(3):268-279. doi:10.1037/qup0000129

  2. American Psychological Association. Manage stress: strengthen your support network.

  3. Harvard Health Publishing. Giving thanks can make you happier.

  4. Layous K, Sweeny K, Armenta C, Na S, Choi I, Lyubomirsky S. The proximal experience of gratitudePLoS One. 2017;12(7):e0179123. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0179123

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.