Be Truthful for Your Health and Wellbeing

Most people are taught to be honest and truthful. Yet, occasionally most people choose not to tell the truth. The reasons for lying are often not malicious. They may be intended to protect one’s or others’ dignity, honor, or reputation, spare themselves or others shame or embarrassment and help preserve their esteem and personal worthiness. Yet, being untruthful has some grave emotional and physical consequences.

Psychologist Bella DePaulo of the University of Virginia found that “most people lie once or twice a day. Both men and women lie a fifth of the time in conversations lasting 10 or more minutes.” She also discovered that “eighty five percent of college student couples have lied to each other about past or recent indiscretions.” She sadly concluded, “You save really big lies for the person you are closest to.” Yet, she discovered that “spouses lie to each other in only about ten percent of their major conversations and their lies are minor lies of everyday life.”

Aside from the psychological damage lies cause to relationships, researchers also documented the negative physiological harm done to individuals who engage in being untruthful. Psychology Professor Anita Kelly of the University of Notre Dame who studied 110 people, 18-71 years old over a ten-week period found that “Subjects who were instructed to dramatically reduce telling lies experienced significantly better health than those who continued to lie.” These findings were consistent whether the lies told were small or big lies.

Professor Kelly’s research also found that telling the truth was healthier than telling untruths. She stated, “The physiological responses evoked by lying such as guilt, anxiety and stress tax our neurological system. Those who began telling the truth experienced fewer mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression and fewer physical symptoms such as nausea or headaches.”

In couple therapy when pairs trade their accusations for appreciations, their untruth for honesty, they often sigh, exhale and visibly release their tension as they trade their anxious emotions for more relaxed, comfortable ones. Their recreated ease with each other reflects the emotional relief they feel in the transition from dishonesty and animosity to cooperation.

When pairs can safely declare their love for and appreciation of each other they reduce the need to resort to untruths to protect themselves. They can become authentic about their need for each other, can list the benefits of their bond and the safety they feel about being authentic with one another. Their physical demeanor manifests relaxation, comfort and ease that facilitate greater intimacy and trust.

Adopt truthfulness for your health:

  • Accept that being truthful about your positive feelings is more empowering and healthier than highlighting to yourself others’ inadequacies.
  • Be truthful in your appreciation of others – it helps you feel better about yourself and eliminates the need for dishonesty.
  • Abstain from lying to yourself or others since it jeopardizes your physical wellbeing and emotional health.
  • Pride yourself for being honest, true to your feelings and to your beloved.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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