Thinking About Death is Good for You
Contemplations of your own mortality often lead interesting places. It was realizing that he only had 10 thousand days left to live that Peter Baumann both to initiate the Being Human project. Peter's not alone. A recent analysis of the scientific literature concludes that thinking about death helps many of us to promote positive changes in our lives.
Much of the previous research has concluded that thinking about death and the fear it can provoke leads us to behave in more defensive or greedier ways. However, this recent analysis finds that subtle reminders of death can in fact make people more willing to help strangers, more environmentally active, more compassionate, and more careful of their personal health and wellbeing. Recognizing that we won't live forever seems to make many people want to make the most of their short time on earth.
Lead author Kenneth Vail concludes:
""Researchers hypothesized that if the cultural value of helping was made important to people, then the heightened awareness of death would motivate an increase in helping behaviors...Other field experiments and tightly controlled laboratory experiments have replicated these and similar findings, showing that the awareness of death can motivate increased expressions of tolerance, egalitarianism, compassion, empathy, and pacifism."