Before you go on reading this text, I want to make it clear that I in no way have the intention of making you feel sad, dark, or even frightened. On the contrary, the purpose of this is to make you feel motivated. I want to point out to you that by thinking about death, at least every now and then, you allow your mind to wonder and feel things that you normally wouldn’t. Because death is such a powerful and an intrinsic to our nature concept, thinking about it has an infinite potential.
The reason why I decided to write about thinking about death in the first place, is because people don’t do it. Having conversations with friends, I noticed that not only many of them never think about death, but they avoid the topic even when it has been brought up. “Let’s not talk about it” – they say. The subject of death automatically carries a negative connotation. Moreover, people think that just because death is inevitable, there is no point talking about it. The fact that we were born and are alive is easily accepted, but when it comes to death, it is a taboo.
While I agree that death is inevitable, that doesn’t make it a useless topic. I am sure that the real reason why people avoid the subject is because it brings on fear. I know that being scared of death is completely normal, and it is a part of our self-preservation instinct, but if you think about it logically, why would you be scared of something that is inevitable? Every single person on this planet has died or will die, and there is nothing we can do about it. So why avoid it?
I got carried away a little. The purpose of this post is to share with you the reason of why thinking about death can actually be beneficial to you. Like I already mentioned, you cannot escape death, but you can certainly change the attitude that you will have towards it when it’s near.
Have you ever read or heard about people that were on their deathbed, and they said that they were not yet ready to go? These people talked about the things that they have not had time to do, or even worse, should have done differently. I am sure that you are familiar with this.
On the other hand, you have probably also heard of people that were about to die, but took it very well, where they were completely satisfied with what they have achieved. They basically were calm and ready to exhale the last breath of air. This is what this text is about. It is about becoming that person that leaves this world with satisfaction.
In many religions, the mind state that you leave the world with, greatly determines the quality of your afterlife. You don’t have to believe in this, but it is a good example of how meaningful the last days are to some cultures.
You may be now asking, so what does all of this have to do with being motivated? To answer this, I will briefly give you some of the reasons in which thinking about death has really changed me.
1. Thinking about death forces me to live in the present
When we think about death, we begin to perceive life in the eyes of the “now”. When death is brought up, suddenly the fact that we are alive becomes a lot more obvious than it ever was. The past begins to fade away, the future boils down to the actual subject, the death. The present becomes the real here and now. I am sure that when I will be coming close to the end of my life, I will not anymore care about the future, as it won’t really exist anymore. The past will also be simplified to the memories that I have about it – “did I live it well or not”. The present is what I am going to experience the most, genuinely. Therefore, when we think about death, it has the potential to allow us to experience that same kind of presence, but already now, without actually having to come close to death. If you manage to get deep enough inside of yourself, you will really value this experience.
Moreover, this experience carries a number of other effects that I will list below.
2. Thinking about death makes me want to be good to others
When I think about my death, I suddenly get this feeling of wanting to be good to others.
The thing is that when I leave, I don’t want to be remembered in any bad way, but rather as a good person. I want my life to raise only positive memories in people’s minds.
When I think about death, I begin to realise more than ever that we are all people. I realise that nobody in this world wants to experience pain or our negative influence. Death may approach very quickly, and there will be no time to apologise or to make up for all the bad things that we did. Therefore, when I think about death, I want become more aware of the way in which I talk to others, or even the way in which I think about them. And this doesn’t concern only the ones around me, such as my relatives and loved ones, but people in general.
When I think about death, I feel like being open and kind to complete strangers. Death is just so powerful and its approach completely destroys everything that you have ever owned, including your life. As a result, I don’t feel like being angry or having an attitude has any benefit to this world. Therefore, I leave it behind.
When I feel think about death, I lose the will to nag the people that are nearest to me. It suddenly clears up that we all have an individual character and the way we go about things. The small things that bother us in others all of a sudden disappear. It becomes funny to think how caught up we are in thinking of our own importance above other’s. But no worries, death doesn’t have any heroes. At its presence, we all become equal.
3. Thinking about death makes me want to be good to Earth
When I think about death, not only I want to be good to people, but to all living beings, including our entire planet. Suddenly I feel that I want to recycle, and not having the water running all the time makes sense too. I never had the habit of trashing outside, but when I think about death, it makes even more sense.
The world is becoming a crowded place to be in, and the fact that we consume so much more than what we need, doesn’t seem to be helping it at all. When I think about death and all the people around me, and the fact that everyone deserves to to be happy, I feel like doing so much more to keep this place a better place. Even if someone may not see what I am doing, I know that the future generations would appreciate this.
4. Thinking about death makes me want to drop bad habits
Those of you that have destructive habits and addiction know that thinking about death feels especially painful. In fact, if you smoke cigarettes, drink a lot of alcohol, or take drugs, you should be thinking about death especially much. This way you have the potential to change your attitude towards these addictions and to stop on time.
I sometimes can ask a person if they are scared that their addiction will slowly kill them… They may respond that they are not scared, that they don’t care, or something along the lines of “dying healthy would be such a pity”. What I have noticed is that these answers are usually given in a very thoughtless manner.
Therefore, I ask you to think about death in an honest way. Don’t be scared and don’t lie to yourself. Allow yourself to become emotional, and think about death in the way that it deserves. When you do it in such a way, the results may be completely different from what you got before.
5. Thinking about death takes stress away
As paradoxical as it may sound, thinking about death actually reduces stress.
Today, many of us live in a very hectic world, in cities consisting of millions of people. We wake up early in the morning to go to school or work, and have a very fast-paced day full of stress. One little thing causes us to experience a quick burst of stress, followed by another, and then another… And before you know it, you are deeply depressed and need to talk to a psychiatrist about your problems.
Thinking about death teaches to see the distinction between the little daily things that bother us, and the larger things that really do matter. When we think about something as big as death, all of the little troubles in life begin to worry us less. We feel that it is a waste of time, and that it is not worth all of the stress.
6. Thinking about death teaches us to look for a purpose
Finally, the last but definitely not the least. When we think about death, it makes us look for a purpose in life.
I cannot tell you what the purpose of your life is, and neither you can tell me what the purpose of my life is. But I am sure that we can all find a purpose and meaning to our own life.
When I finally began to think about death seriously, I realised how short our life is. I can’t even be sure that I will make it to tomorrow. However, I know that if I do make it to be old, I definitely want to look back at life and smile, knowing that I lived life to the fullest.
One of the biggest motivators for me to improve myself, my mental and physical health, are thoughts about death. The fact that I know I will someday die, makes me want to achieve great things in life already today, at least those that really matter to me.
Once again, this post is not about sadness or fear, but actually about happiness and being able to enjoy life. I wanted to share with you how thinking about death benefits me, and the potential that it has to change anyone’s life for the better.
I hope that you can take something away from this, and that you can see your life as not just as something that passes by, but something that you have complete control of.
Smile, you are wonderful!
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn’t make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grievedifferently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let’s talk about living with loss. If you have a story you’d like to share, email us at email@example.com.