death

Thinking About Death to Deter Depression

Thinking About Death to Deter Depression

Some people find reminders of their death depressing, but thinking about death can actually make you happier. I first heard about this idea in Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken. Jane McGonigal designs and researches games, and in her 2011 bestseller, she explores the ways in which game mechanics positively influence human psychology.  McGonigal proposes that we apply the structures and mechanics of games as solutions to problems in reality.

One particular problem McGonigal discusses is depression. The World Health Organization calls depression “the leading cause of disability worldwide.” Being unhappy is a big issue, and thinking about death is one simple, although non-obvious, solution.

You, too, are terminally ill

You, too, are terminally ill

People are disturbed by a determinate lifetime.

That’s the lesson I’ve learned this week after I posted the “Life by Months” tool which lets people enter their birthday and get a quick glimpse of the months they’ve lived and a view of the months ahead. Many expressed that the spreadsheet made them feel unnerved.

I got a few people who responded with “memento mori,” or “remember your mortality.” As important as that is, I don’t think the awareness of mortality is what unnerves people. More than death, it seems to be the quantification of a lifetime that is unsettling. It’s an unusual insight. Time is quantified every day – we’re dominated by clocks and schedules and we’re paid by the hour. Why is this schedule more disturbing than the others