How Thinking About Death Can Improve Life

Studies suggest that people who don't avoid the inevitability of death experience more happiness and fulfillment.

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Didn’t see that coming

  • Sex, pizza, and giving back

  • How thinking about death can improve life

  • Does money = happiness?

  • Finish Strong workout #8

Arnold’s Podcast

Want more stories from Arnold? Every day, Arnold’s Pump Club Podcast opens with a story, perspective, and wisdom from Arnold that you won’t find in the newsletter. And, you’ll hear a recap of the day’s items. You can subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Google, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

From Arnold: Didn’t See That Coming

I’ve enjoyed many things about writing these emails every week with Adam and Daniel. Each weekend, we meet in our writer’s room to discuss topics for the next week. I love providing clarity where there is confusion, making science easier to understand, and helping you take action.

But I’ve also enjoyed discussing topics you don’t see others discuss. Wellness isn’t just about how we exercise and what we eat. As we continue to look back at some of the most popular posts of the year, we wanted to focus on the items you didn’t see coming — but you truly enjoyed. 

Sex, Pizza, and Giving?

What do sex, pizza, and giving all have in common? They all stimulate the same part of your brain. But unlike your favorite slice, the mental boost can pay off in other ways.

Research suggests that helping others is one of the best things you can do for your health and happiness.

An analysis of 27 studies found that acts of kindness — anything from donating time and money to providing assistance designed to benefit others — boost well-being.

Research also suggests that helping others strengthens your social networks, encouraging you to interact more with others. Not only does this improve your self-esteem (doing good makes you feel good about yourself), but it also leads to more interaction and connection. And that happiness increases happiness and can help promote a longer lifespan.

One study suggests that helping others can reduce early mortality rates by 22 percent compared to those who don’t engage in acts of kindness.

Nutrition and exercise get a lot of attention (for good reasons) but don’t forget that social health is also an essential component of health. And one of the easiest ways to strengthen your social muscles is to help others, give back, and spread positivity.

The Surprising Benefits of Thinking About Death

What do you do when you're feeling a little down? If we had to guess, you're probably not thinking about the end of your life. But it could be the unsuspecting pick-me-up you need.

That's because thinking about death can help increase happiness, connection with others, and gratitude.

A study in Psychological Science discovered that people who thought about their death were more empathetic and more likely to donate their time, money, and even their blood. And researchers from Kentucky found that thinking about death can increase fulfillment.

Confronting death can help you live the type of life that will make you proud. Combining that with a memento mori mindset — a stoic philosophy that helps you appreciate the limited time we all have — makes it easier to appreciate the days you have and find more joy.

In other words, thinking of death can help you accept the value of life, which can help you make the most of your days, even during hard times. When that happens, it’s easier to stay hungry, put in the reps, and bring your vision to life.

Does Money = Happiness?

Money can solve many problems and remove many frustrations, but does it truly make you happier?

To a certain amount, it appears it does. A new study on more than 33,000 people found that happiness continues to increase upwards of $200,000 per year.

It’s a complex topic because perspective shapes reality. The person without much money will feel like those with money don’t understand life's difficulties, such as the stress of struggling to pay the bills. And the person with money will insist that their pains and problems are just as real, albeit different than those without greater means.

The question isn’t whether having more money eliminates certain problems; it undoubtedly does. Money is a privilege (whether earned or inherited), and that means less stress. But the relationship between money and happiness tends to depend more on your happiness before you hit it big.

Or, as the lead research put it: “If you’re rich and miserable, more money won’t help.” And money won’t help alleviate the suffering of life, such as loss, heartbreak, or clinical depression.

We shared this study with Arnold, and here were his thoughts: 

It always drives me nuts when rich people tell other people that “money can’t buy you happiness.” It can definitely buy you a lot of comforts, and it can make life much easier. But I also don’t think that comfort or ease is the same as happiness. You can be the most comfortable person in the world and still be completely depressed.

I think that all of you should try to make as much money as you want. But if something is missing in your life, and you find that the money and the comfort it buys you don’t make you happy, my guess is you need to find a purpose. You need to be useful. I’ve known a lot of miserable, angry, rich people.

Everyone I’ve ever known who knew why they were doing what they were doing every day has had a smile on their face. It’s why I smiled in the gym in Pumping Iron while everyone else frowned. I didn’t have money then, I was a bricklayer with Franco when I wasn’t training and going to college classes to pay the bills. But I did have a vision. I think that’s the key to happiness.

There is also one more thing: if you have tried to find happiness and you just can’t, one sure path is to help someone else. I still remember in the late 70s, when I went to train Special Olympics athletes for the first time in Wisconsin, I went back to my hotel room just feeling fantastic. I’m talking pure joy. I sat there and thought, “Why am I so happy? I didn’t make any money today. I didn’t win any awards.” I’d given back. I felt useful. That’s true happiness.

A Good Reason To Use Your Phone

Want to silence your negative self-talk? Here’s one situation where the right kind of screen time can help.

Research suggests watching awe-inspiring moments can help unlock better health and happiness.

Scientists found that inspiring videos improve mood and overall well-being. More specifically, individuals who watched awe-inspiring videos reported a 14 percent reduction in stress levels and a 25 percent increase in happiness.

When you’re in awe, it triggers the part of the brain that can quiet your negative self-talk. By drowning out the negativity, you have more room for positivity, which creates a domino effect that improves overall well-being.

The awe can be triggered by anything from an incredible athletic feat to a breathtaking sunset.

This research challenges the assumption that well-being can only be achieved through direct experiences in the real world. It suggests that even virtual experiences can impact your health and happiness.

Want to harness the power of awe in your own life? Seek out awe-inspiring videos or find things impressive, whether visiting art exhibits and museums or watching your favorite sport or activity.

Finish Strong Challenge: Workout #8

Here’s the second-to-last workout of the Finish Strong Challenge. 

At the end of the week, we’ll be randomly selecting we’ll randomly three people who have shared their workouts on social media and reward them with $1,000 for the new year. 

Today’s workout is a full-body plan. Once again, we’re doing supersets to pack more volume in less time, but this time, you’re pairing upper and lower body movements. Do a set of the first exercise followed immediately by a set of the second exercise. Rest for two minutes and repeat until all sets of the superset are finished, and then move to the next superset pair. 

Dumbbell version

Superset 1

  1. Dumbbell chest press: 4 sets x 8 reps
    Rest 2 minutes

  2. Dumbbell front squat: 4 sets x 10 reps
    Rest 2 minutes

Superset 2

  1. Dumbbell straight leg deadlift: 4 sets x 10 reps 

  2. Dumbbell row: 4 sets x 8 reps

    Rest 2 minutes

Superset 3

  1. Dumbbell biceps curl: 3 sets x 10 reps/leg

  2. Dumbbell overhead triceps extension: 3 sets x 8 reps

Bodyweight version

Superset 1

  1. Bodyweight good morning: 4 sets x 10-15 reps 

  2. Pullups or Inverted row or Superman pullup: 4 sets x 10-20 reps
    Rest 2 minutes

Superset 2

  1. Pushups: 4 sets x 10-20 reps

  2. Bodyweight squat: 4 sets x 10-20 reps
    Rest 2 minutes

Superset 3

  1. Bodyweight rear-foot elevated split squat: 4 sets x 8 reps/leg

  2. Reverse crunch: 4 sets x 10 reps
    Rest 2 minutes

Remember to tag Arnold and share on social media using #Arnoldschallenge.

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell