How Thinking About Death Can Lead to a Good Life

I knew it!

The Geek Gang over at ScienceDaily.com have confirmed what I have long suspected!

As a recent article states, “Thinking about death can actually be a good thing. An awareness of mortality can improve physical health and help us re-prioritize our goals and values, according to a new analysis of recent scientific studies. Even non-conscious thinking about death — say walking by a cemetery — could prompt positive changes and promote helping others.”

Past research suggests that thinking about death is destructive and dangerous, fueling everything from prejudice and greed to violence. Such studies related to terror management theory (TMT), which posits that we uphold certain cultural beliefs to manage our feelings of mortality, have rarely explored the potential benefits of death awareness.

“This tendency for TMT research to primarily deal with negative attitudes and harmful behaviors has become so deeply entrenched in our field that some have recently suggested that death awareness is simply a bleak force of social destruction,” says Kenneth Vail of the University of Missouri, lead author of the new study in the online edition of Personality and Social Psychology Review this month. “There has been very little integrative understanding of how subtle, day-to-day, death awareness might be capable of motivating attitudes and behaviors that can minimize harm to oneself and others, and can promote well-being.”

Thinking about death can also promote better health. Recent studies have shown that when reminded of death people may opt for better health choices, such as using more sunscreen, smoking less, or increasing levels of exercise.

One major implication of this body of work, Vail says, is that we should “turn attention and research efforts toward better understanding of how the motivations triggered by death awareness can actually improve people’s lives, rather than how it can cause malady and social strife.”

Write the authors: “The dance with death can be a delicate but potentially elegant stride toward living the good life.”

aa-tribalfang

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