Note to self: google Korean coffin therapy just to verify this author’s content.

You are probably wondering: wouldn’t thinking about my own death make me more likely to be depressed and sad than improve my life? Wouldn’t staging my own funeral, lying in a coffin and designing my own tombstone be more likely to result in suicide?

We really do not often think about our death (or do you?) and we often don’t want to (or you do?). The truth is we are human. Mortal and vulnerable beings, who are destined to die (though I am still an optimist). It is the only real certainty in life, which makes it even more bizarre. If you have truly loved in life (be it a partner, your child, your pet, a place or a thing), then you will understand that pain is inevitable. Really beautiful moments have the potential to produce sad and negative feelings, if for example we associate them with people who we loved but aren’t here anymore.

We tend to suppress the terrifying thoughts of death and not being here anymore. Not just our own death but especially the permanent absence of a close beloved human being. And we often say: “life just isn’t fair!” Why do young, innocent people die so early? What did they do to deserve it? Maybe life isn’t fair. Maybe we all have our own fate and don’t know what it is (and that is terrifying too!). Yet we carry on with multiple self-destructive behaviours, we suppress scary and negative thoughts (because why think about that now right?).

Have you ever thought why mainly people with terminal diagnoses and with months to live make bucket lists and then go out to live them? Like the 90 year old with cancer who chose an epic roadtrip with her family instead of chemo. Do you really have to be looking in the face of death to finally act on your true values and passions?! And what if not acting on those values and passions for many years, contributes to an illness?

In South Korea, where suicide rates are highest, they have a special solution! Well, special if you call staging your own funeral and being shut in a coffin “special”. And apparently it helps to reduce stress in workers and makes them reevaluate their priorities and values in life. You can always google it and accidentally send it to your HR manager.

The “tombstone exercise” is a great practice which is frequently used as a psychology exercise. Knowing what you would want to have written on your tombstone is not only important but it can make a significant impact on your every day life and health. Take time to really think well about this. What do you stand for in your life? This exercise will help you identify what gives your life meaning and what your values are. So much of our time, energy and health is wasted on actions and things that do not give us meaning, that do not act on our values and which are no closer to making us the person we would like to be remembered for. Sure, sometimes you have to do what you don’t want to, but you always have a choice about how to do it. If you remember your values, then you can ask yourself every day (or when you remember) whether your actions and behavior are in line with your values. If they aren’t, what can you do about it? You could save yourself lots of stress and hard times if you zoom out of your life and re-evaluate what you want to be remembered for when you die. It is a healthy exercise, for your mind and body.

Some exercises you can do to embrace living by accepting dying are making a long bucket list, designing your tombstone, googling Korean coffin therapy or reading the book about top regrets of the dying. You don’t have to do it right now, but do it soon, before you die!

Originally published at