The Truth About Harmless Lies and Your Health

A typewriter with a page that reads “truth” and below the image it reads, “Lies and your health. Can and should small fibs be avoided?”

To tell the truth 100% of the time may seem possible at first glance. But what about those little lies that are common in daily life? Like the ones we tell to protect someone’s feelings, or not revealing the real reason we ran 5 minutes to work. My personal favorite is now a reel on Instagram: your precious kid hands you a drawing that you could not identify to save your life and with eyes a-gleaming, “Can you guess what it is?” Are you really going to dim the light in that child’s face? Hopefully, you can come up with something clever to dodge lying in these instances but how easy is it to just tell a small fib?

Now, it is a lot easier to rationalize those big lies are the ones that count. After all, so many of those are actual crimes! So, naturally, there have been studies and research about it. What personalities are most likely to lie, lie detectors and their accuracy, even examining the body language of honesty, have all been studied to some extent. The verdict? Lying could be interfering with your physical and mental health. A recent study suggests that honesty really is the best policy.

A “Science of Honesty” project at the University of Notre Dame asked people to give up telling major and minor lies for 10 weeks. At the conclusion of the experiment, the test subjects reported that they felt less tension and sadness when they refrained from lying. They also reported that they had fewer physical symptoms, such as headaches and sore throats.

Incorporating complete honesty into your life can be difficult. But the rewards are amazing. Try these strategies to make it easier to avoid those “inconsequential” lies.

Guidelines for Being More Honest in Everyday Life:

  1. Be realistic. It’s estimated that the average person tells 10 or more lies per week. Becoming more candid will require a good deal of effort. Give yourself credit each time you dare to be forthcoming instead of hiding behind a fib.

  2. Stop making excuses. Becoming more accountable is a great place to start. When you show up late for an appointment, just apologize for running late instead of pretending there was a traffic jam.

  3. Fulfill your promises. There will be less temptation to make up stories if you keep your word in the first place. Accept your limitations and take on only what you can handle.

  4. Ask directly. Direct approaches work better than manipulation. Invite a friend on a weekend getaway instead of trying to convince her that she looks tired and needs a break.

  5. Deal with conflicts. We sometimes keep quiet because it seems easier than dealing with conflict. Examine whether you’re accommodating others to be kind or if it would be better to work out your differences.

  6. Present yourself accurately. Take risks and open up to others. Express your true feelings. State your opinions even when they’re different than the majority.

  7. Think like a nurse. A Gallup poll found that nurses were especially straightforward. That makes sense considering that a person’s health is often at stake. Consider your impact on the world when you’re feeling inclined to sidestep the truth.

  8. Speak tactfully. Uncomfortable subjects and situations are easier to face when you choose your words carefully. It’s also helpful to select an appropriate time and place. Think about how you’d want someone to talk to you about a difficult topic and give them the same courtesy.

Guidelines for Being More Honest in Specific Situations:

  1. Evaluate your parenting. Your kids provide a lot of motivation for becoming a worthy role model. If you embrace honesty in your life, your children will follow suit. Help them develop solid communication skills and emotional intelligence. They’ll grow up to be more resilient and resourceful.

  2. Deepen your intimate relationships. The courage to be honest will strengthen your connection with your partner. You’ll feel accepted for who you are and give them the chance to experience the same joy.

  3. Be more honest at work. Find a line of work that allows you to operate according to your values. Figure out how to be honest with your boss and coworkers in a respectful way.
  • Engage in self-reflection. Set aside time on a regular basis to review how you’re doing by incorporating honesty into your life. Think in terms of progress rather than perfection.

Honesty is good for your mind and body. Telling lies and keeping track of them can be stressful. Truthfulness, combined with sensitivity, will strengthen your relationships and help you feel better about yourself.

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