Community//

Find Happiness by Contemplating Death, According to Science

Thinking about death can make you value life more. It helps shift your perspective. Avoiding it altogether is foolish because contemplating death is deeply uplifting.

https://unsplash.com/photos/ReEqHw2GyeI

“Having lost my father 8 months ago, the experience of losing him is still very raw for me. Dad went to her doctor with a minor stomach upset and died five weeks later with an aggressive bowel tumour. He had no previous symptoms and wasn’t even unwell. It came as a complete shock with total devastation to me and my family.

Grief is so overpowering – it consumes you. First the numbness and autopilot mode then the heaviness of despair, then the oceans of tears, then the questions of the pointless, futility of life. Then anger, then deep despair, then numbness and repeat. Repeat.

8 months on and I still question all of it; but I cope by leaning on my loved ones and I cope by using my dad’s strength to spur me on.

Ironically, he is the one that gets me out of bed every morning.”

Loosing a loved one is incredibly difficult, but  thinking about death can make you value life more and you have the chance to reassess your life shifting your perspective. Avoiding it altogether is foolish because contemplating death is deeply uplifting.

Infact a variety of research shows that, paradoxically, reflecting on death can be instructive for improving Yourself in the present and useful to plan a better future.

For example an important study of 2009 conducted by psychologists Adam M. Grant and Kimberly A. Wade-Benzoni have emphasized that when people are aware of their mortality, they become more originative, productive, resilient and purposeful.

The two researchers examined the dynamic relationship between death anxiety and death reflection.

On the one hand Terror Management Researchers have suggested that death anxiety motivates individuals to avoid existential terror by avoiding death-related thoughts, which may prevent death reflection (Pyszczynski et al.,2003). On the other hand Generativity Researchers have suggested that death reflection facilitates proactive planning and marshaling of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral coping strategies for meaning making, and these reduce death anxiety (Cozzolino et al., 2004; McAdams & de St. Aubin, 1992).

In addition to this interesting study Irvin Yalom, a clinical psychologist who deals with existential issues, has also written in this famous book “Staring at the Sun” about how contemplating mortality on a deeper level can have positive psychological effects. He has argued specifically that people who contemplate, accept and face death develop a more “authentic” life in which their behaviour and goals are more align with their values.

Even today there is an elegant new app, called “WeCroak,” that doesn’t do much  —  but it will still cost you 99 cents in the app store. It simply reminds you that you are going to die. And more importantly, these morbid reminders may make you happier. You are encouraged to take one moment for contemplation, conscious breathing or meditation when WeCroak notifications arrive. The Founders explains that experiencing a regular practice of contemplating mortality helps spur needed change, accept what we must, let go of things that don’t matter and honor things that do.

But why does embracing death is so important for our life?

The answer is based on the central role of “self-prospection,” and so in the generation and evaluation of mental representations of our possible futures.

Infact it is increasingly clear that the mind is mainly drawn to the future, not driven by the past. Behavior, memory and perception can’t be understood without appreciating the central role of prospection. We learn not by storing static records but by continually retouching memories and imagining future possibilities. Our brain sees the world not by processing every pixel in a scene but by focusing on the unexpected.

Our emotions are less reactions to the present than guides to future behavior. Infact therapists are exploring new ways to treat depression now that they see it as primarily not because of past traumas and present stresses but because of skewed visions of what lies ahead.

So, people who are able to envision their future can have positive outcomes for life such as:

Implementing real intentions. It Inspire you to plan realistic steps to reach your goals.

Being less exhausted, but more motivated in achieving great goals.

Using time and internal resources to own desires, rather than wasting emotional energy on unfulfilled goals.

Making better long-term decisions.

In conclusion remembering that this one life is finite helps us find meaning and be attentive and intentional with our actions. Rather than the perfect selfie or the perfect salary, you might think about spending time with the people who matter to you, doing things that make you happy, and leaving your mark on society.

Thinking about death brings us closer to our values, and helps us think about what “the point” is; ask yourself what you value, what you stand for, what you want to be remembered for, and what you believe is your purpose.

“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

So, if you’re feeling courageous, make some space for thinking about death.

The payoff ? A more meaningful, resilient and intentional living.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Inspiration in Death

by James Lizmi
Wisdom//

IT STILL HURTS LIKE THE FIRST DAY YOU LEFT US:

by Aysha Ahmed
Wonder//

Lessons from Heaven in an Interview with Cherie Aimée

by Sarah J Browne

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.