People Who Are Dying Often Feel Happier Than We Think, Study Finds

People Who Are Dying Often Feel Happier Than We Think, Study Finds

From death row inmates to terminally ill patients, living with a death sentence can actually promote an increase in positive thinking.

You would think that someone dying from a terminal illness or an inmate on death row would have a rather negative outlook on life. A study published in Psychological Science by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill indicates that just the opposite can happen, though.

Apparently for many people, the closer they are to death, the more positive they become.

The study looked at blog posts made by patients who were terminally ill with cancer or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and who died in the course of writing their blog.

It also examined the last words of death-row inmates in Texas, collected by the state’s Department of Justice. Researchers found that both groups had surprisingly upbeat, positive things to say in their final moments alive.

In fact, the bloggers had more positive emotions and fewer negative ones in their work than posts written by people who were simply imagining they were dying, and the same was true for the death row inmates.

Researchers compared the actual last words and poetry of death row inmates with those of an online group of participants who simply imagined that they were going to die, and found more positivity in the first group.

“When we imagine our emotions as we approach death, we think mostly of sadness and terror,” says psychological scientist Kurt Gray of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “But it turns out, dying is less sad and terrifying — and happier — than you think.”

Maybe the whole process isn’t quite as depressing as we imagine. The researchers involved in this study are hoping the findings help the medical system change the way it treats people who are dying.

Photo credits: Kasia Bialasiewicz/Bigstock

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