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When You Lie, Your Brain Is Actually Suffering

When You Lie, Your Brain Is Actually Suffering

Ever hear this: “Don’t lie, your nose will grow!” or “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”? One of the basic lessons of our childhood was to never tell a lie. We all know we shouldn’t lie, yet we seem to do it anyway. In fact, you’ve probably already lied today. Shaking your head “no”? Could be another lie. Research shows that most people tell 1 to 2 lies a day![1]

We always make excuses for our lies, too. “It’s not pathological lying, it’s a simple white lie.” “I said it so I wouldn’t hurt their feelings.” “I didn’t want to get in trouble.” So, what’s the big deal if everybody else is doing it? Well, as it turns out, lying could be affecting your brain and body.

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When you lie, your brain is overwhelmed

Lots of research has been conducted about the health effects of pathological lying and guess what? It could be detrimental to your health.

According to Arthur Markman, Ph.D., the very second that lie leaves your lips, your body releases cortisol into your brain. Just a few minutes later and your memory goes into overdrive trying to remember both the lie and the truth. Decision making becomes more difficult and you could even project your discomfort as anger. This is all in the first 10 minutes![2]

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When you lie, your stress increases

After these initial reactions, you may start to feel worried about your lie – or about being caught lying. To deal with this feeling, you might try to make up for the lie by treating the other person more kindly than normal. Or, the reverse could happen and you convince yourself it was their fault that you had to lie.

The day after the lie, one of two things might happen. If you are used to pathological lying, you may begin to believe the lie. If you are not used to pathological lying, you may still feel bad and try to avoid seeing the person you lied to. Continuing to feel guilty over your lie could lead to disrupted sleep patterns over a few days.[3]

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All of this additional stress has negative consequences on your health as well. It can increase your blood pressure, cause headaches and lower back pain, and reduce your white blood cell count (you need these to fight illness).[4] A lot of mental energy goes into telling and keeping up a lie, giving you anxiety and in some cases, depression. It doesn’t stop there. These feelings go on to affect your digestion, resulting in diarrhea, upset stomach, nausea, and cramps.

A Notre Dame research project looked into the effects of pathological lying. The study involved 110 volunteers, half of whom agreed to stop lying and the other half who received no instructions. At the end of 10 weeks, the group that lied less often had 54% fewer mental complaints (like stress or anxiety) and 56% fewer physical health issues (like headaches or digestive issues).[5]

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Stop Your Pathological Lying!

If lying is part of your daily routine (and let’s be honest, it probably is), then it’s going to be hard to simply stop. You can tell yourself you just won’t lie today, but you’ll probably end up doing it anyway. Just think about your best friend asking you if they have a good singing voice. Can you tell them the truth? I didn’t think so.

Stopping pathological lying takes time. Tell yourself you want to be more honest and make a conscious effort to cut down on your lying. Think twice before responding to a question. Can you avoid answering it? Is there a way to answer it and omit the truth?

Another great way to control pathological lying is to spend time with people who value the truth. Having friends who prefer to hear the truth and who encourage you to tell the truth can be really motivating. And if all else fails… think of your health!

Reference

More by this author

Amber Pariona

EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA

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Last Updated on January 6, 2019

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1]University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2]Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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