According to lying expert Robert Feldman, most of us fib at least twice in the course of a 10-minute conversation. His research shows that on average, we lie 11 times a day! New research presented at the national convention of the American Psychological Association suggests that all this lying may be making us sicker and that honesty can improve health.
When it comes to lying and its affects on health, insincerity counts. We aren’t just talking about big bold-faced lies, but half-truths, compliments given that you don’t really mean, and white lies told to make your life easier but that don’t really hurt anyone. Surely you’ve been guilty of a falsehood like, “Honey I ran out of gas, but by the time I refilled and made it to the market it was closed. So sorry, I couldn’t grab the milk”…when really, you just forgot.
As part of their Science of Honesty project funded by Templeton Foundation, University of Notre Dame researchers Anita E. Kelly and Lijuan Wang set out to determine if honesty can improve health. They separated a group of 72 adults (with an average age of 41) into two groups: a control group that weren’t given any details or instructions beyond the fact that they were participating in a study, and a test group that were given the following orders:
“Throughout every day of the next five weeks, you must speak honestly, truthfully, and sincerely—not only about the big things, but also about the small things, such as why you were late. You must always mean what you say in situations where your statements are to be taken seriously, as opposed to when joking or obviously exaggerating. While you certainly can choose not to answer questions, you must always mean what you say.”
Participants in both groups checked in for polygraph tests and physical health assessments periodically over the next five weeks. Results were astonishing!
The group on an insincerity fast showed a significantly decreased risk for seven fewer symptoms, including sore throats, nausea, headaches, and mental symptoms such as tension! Perhaps all the lying may affect our bodies and our health on a psychosomatic level, lowering our immune systems and upping our risks for colds and viruses?
Giving up insincerity can be as difficult as giving up smoking for some. As you try to implement a 100% sincere life, go easy on yourself. You’re bound to slip you with a compliment you don’t really mean, or a half-truth to avoid making waves. Acknowledge your gaffe with insincerity and move forward with “sincere” intentions.