Asking Existential Questions Can Lower Levels Of Depression And Anxiety, Says New Study

Research suggests that asking yourself deep, meaningful questions about life will improve your mental health

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Is there life after death?

What's the point of life?

How do we know if we're doing the right thing?

More often than not, we turn away from deep existential questions as thoughts on our own meaning and mortality can result in worry and confusion, due to a lack of definitive answers.

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I know writer Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy affirms 42 to be the number from which all meaning can be derived but I don't buy it, sorry.

Life is already hard enough with work, balancing relationships and trying not to get your bag trapped in the doors of public transport.

Rationalising our being isn't exactly high up on the priorities of today's to-do list.

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But, a new study has found that people who ask themselves these brain-teasing questions every day present lower levels of depression and anxiety.

The research – published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science – involved questioning 307 people about how much they'd like to think about their mental health and spirituality and suggests that introducing existential questioning in therapy sessions is key to helping patients suffering from common mental illnesses.

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The study's co-author Professor Julie Exline says:

'Religious and spiritual struggles — conflicts with God or religious people, tough questions about faith, morality, and the meaning of life — these are often taboo topics, and the temptation to push them away is strong.

When people avoid these struggles, anxiety and depression tend to be more intense than if they faced these struggles head-on.

'People who more fully embrace these struggles with fundamental beliefs and values report better mental health than those who don't,' she added.

The study's results aren't so much to do with the need to find religion but addressing subjects such as life, meaning and mortality in order to improve mental well-being.

So, what is the meaning of life?*

*If you find out, let us know. We want answers.

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