In the Chinese culture that I’m from, when you say “die,” ten people chorus “Choi!” while tapping every wooden surface within arm’s length.
Death is a taboo topic; most probably because it’s scary. The idea of death evokes so many insecurities — the thought of ceasing to exist. The unknown of what comes next. Worry for our loved ones left behind.
Despite that, bear with me as I make a bold suggestion. What about we spend at least five minutes every day thinking about our death? Here are four reasons why I think that’s a good idea.
1) Prepare for the inevitable
Death makes us feel uneasy. Thus we avoid the subject, oblivious that we are actually… doing ourselves a disservice?
It’s easy to ignore that human life is impermanent. But ignoring something doesn’t make it go away. On the contrary, it comes with a heavy psychological cost. Because the more we ignore something, the more it looms over our head, causing anxiety.
There is a term for death anxiety — thanatophobia. It means fear of one’s own death or the process of dying. Of course, there is a spectrum. It’s a phobia for some people but a mere discomfort for others.
Regardless of which part of the spectrum one is on, negotiating the fact of death helps us accept the inevitable. The more we think about something, the less frightening it becomes.
2) Become a happier person
In a 2007 study conducted by Nathan DeWall and Roy Baumesiter from the University of Kentucky, several dozen students were divided into two groups. One group was told to think about a painful visit to the dentist whereas the other group was to contemplate their own death.
Next, each group was instructed to complete stem words like “jo_”. The researchers discovered that the group who thought of death was more likely to form positive words like “joy”. With their findings, the researchers concluded that “death is a psychologically threatening fact, but when people contemplate it, the automatic system begins to search for happy thoughts”.
Conclusion: Think of death to feel happy!
3) Put things into perspective
When you comprehend that a lifetime is finite, you realize that everything is transient. That car that cut you off? Transient. That annoying pimple the size of a raisin? Transient. Your a**h**e boss who screams at you in front of your peers? Transient.
All that small stuff? Transient in the grand scheme of things. No misery lasts forever.
Meanwhile, also transient are the laughs you share with your best friend. The joy of hiking through the wilderness. Hugging mummy — maybe for the last time.
When you are conscious of an end, you find value in the mundane.
4) Provides motivation
When we’re mindful of the end, we become acutely aware that we’re on a clock. One day, it will be too late to backpack across Europe. One day, it will be too late to start your own business. One day, it’ll be too late to get a college degree. It’ll be too late because we’ll be dead.
It is a reminder and we WILL run out of time. Soon.
We are all on a conveyor belt heading for death, and only when you (and I, and that weird dude at the bus stop who has never met a comb) fully accept the inevitable, can we embrace life to the fullest.
Chow Ping Lee is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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