In our culture today, the thought of death and dying isn’t typically a common dinner conversation. At least for most of my family and friends, it’s a heavy topic that deserves a certain time and place to ponder. It sometimes plagues the elderly as they near their passing, it might concern young children with unanswered questions, and it often slips the minds of young adults as they distract themselves from hard questions with a good time.

Western culture certainly promotes a “fear” or avoidance of death, and to all of us, what comes after death might be vague, even if we have hope from our faith. In other cultures, however, the truth of the reality of death is openly discussed, portrayed on murals, relayed through music and dance, and can become as common a conversation as birth, marriage, or baptism in these cultures.

Studies have recently shown that thinking and talking about death as a reality of life can actually lift the spirits. It can increase our mood, it can cause us to see life as a gift and look for the positive things around us as we cherish our daily interactions with others

It also allows us to grieve well. As we age, our own death becomes more of a reality, and talking about this can help us process what’s to come, without ignoring the inevitable. When someone around us passes away, confiding in a friend, family member, and/or therapist can help us to cope with the loss. A grief support group can also be a helpful tool. But why do we only begin to talk about and process death after someone we know and love passes? Apparently we are missing out, and should be discussing death on the regular to improve our emotional health.

Whether you are an internal or external processor, thinking and talking about death are the main ways that you can use this topic to expand your horizons of life! Contrary to popular belief, a University of Kentucky study found that:

“the common response to contemplating death is a nonconscious orientation toward happy thoughts.”

Maybe you’ve heard of the Bhutansese. They are usually cited as the happiest group of people on earth. They are a Buddhist group that has revolutionized the way that other cultures think about death – they encourage all individuals to think about death 5 times per day.

There are some theories as to why this is. Some have mused that seeing our life in light of a bigger picture can help the small stresses and annoyances fade away. A sort of “re-framing” of our view of life in a sense. It also helps us let go our of sense of control of our life. Death is inevitable, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Relinquishing our false sense of control can be cathartic, and give us a healthier sense of reality.

Certainly, death is not always a light topic. It affects many of us in different ways, mostly negative. It causes trauma for young children that takes years to cope with. It debilitates us in our adulthood when we have a close relation pass away. It haunts us as we near deaths door and wonder what we could have done differently with our time.

And cultural norms have caused us to shy away from discussing the realities of death as regular conversation in our culture. However,  Professor Lisa Cohen points out:

“We may not be able to cut and paste the practices of a very different culture into our own lives and yield the same results.”

But we can introduce the topic, and we can begin to practice the acknowledgment of the reality of our own death and become more comfortable with considering it more often. So here are 4 reasons you should start (or continue) thinking about death, often:

  1. It can make you happier

    • As aforementioned, it can make us more content with what we have, and able to see our lives in light of the bigger picture, making for a generally happier outlook.
  2. It can make you healthier

    • Thinking about your own mortality can increase your motivation to keep your mind and body healthy, and start practices which promote this healthier lifestyle.
  3. It can make your relationships better

    • Thinking about how finite your relationships are can encourage you to be more intentional with the time that you have, to more quickly forgive, and to invest more of yourself into the people you truly love.
  4. You can approach your own death better

    • This might seem like an obvious benefit, but studies have shown that those exposed to death and dying on a regular basis (such as doctors and clinical staff) have a better acceptance and “plan” for their death since they think about it more frequently than most.

For all of us, considering death and the mortality of ourselves and those around us can cause us to see ourselves and our lives differently, to add a sense of happiness and security to our everyday, and to face hard questions head-on.

Having a sense of closure as you die can bring peace and clarity to a grief-filled and daunting time of your life. If you are currently gracefully aging, are you talking with your family and friends about this reality? Have you started to practice considering death? If you need a team of Caregivers and staff to help you along this journey and provide care and companionship as you face these questions, call us today:

(570) 587-4700

Sources:

https://www.agingcare.com/Articles/Talking-About-Death-and-Dying-Is-GOOD-for-Us-197218.htm

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20150408-bhutans-dark-secret-to-happiness

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.02013.x

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/40a5/9b0bcf75e4a93dd955abeba754e1a66634cc.pdf?_ga=2.217446111.873350464.1518449974-1932571561.1518449974

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/3k7vk5/meditating-on-your-death-happiness

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