Sincerity Can Improve Our Health

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Telling the truth is good for your health, and conversely, lying can undermine it, studies in the science of honesty suggest.

The work has been conducted by Anita Kelly and Lijuan Wang, professors at the University of Notre Dame, and is funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. Reporting to the American Psychological Association, Kelly showed that a “sincerity group,” who told fewer lies over five weeks, described having fewer physical health complaints, such as sore throats, headaches, and nausea, than a control group. “Because the only difference between the two groups was the sincerity instructions, we can conclude that these instructions actually caused the health benefit,” Kelly writes in Psychology Today.

This research into honesty now stretches back over several years. In a previous study in which a sample group was instructed to not tell lies for a period of time, the group experienced fewer mental conflicts, such as feeling tense or melancholy, as well as fewer physical complaints. Truth-telling also had a beneficial impact upon relationships. “Statistical analyses showed that this improvement in relationships significantly accounted for the improvement in health that was associated with less lying,” explains Wang.

The research also implies that there seems to be an element of training oneself to be more honest. Those who take part in the studies report that there is no longer a need to exaggerate when describing their daily accomplishments. They may also sense they do not need to make excuses. “Being sincere is a process and you will get there with practice,” Kelly says. “And when you do, you will see that you are becoming more humble, more open to learning, and less sensitive to rejection.”