Honesty in Action: Honesty’s Health Impact
In my last post, I explained why I included honesty as one of the ten core principles in my upcoming book Rewired: because it’s the key to a fulfilling and enriching life. Honesty is a challenging principle for many of us to fully embody because we are so used to telling what we would consider “little white lies.” Lying expert Robert Feldman estimates that most people lie 11 times a day and at least twice in a 10-minute conversation. Aside from the impact that has on our relationships and our emotional health, did you know that this lack of honesty may have an impact on your physical health as well?
At this year’s American Psychological Association conference, researchers from Notre Dame presented the results of their project The Science of Honesty . They randomly placed 72 adults into one of two groups – the “sincerity” group and the “control” group. People in the control group were not required to do anything beyond their normal activity and behaviors for five weeks. They were free to be as honest or dishonest as they wanted, and were simply told they were part of an observational study. Those in the sincerity group were told that during those five weeks they had to speak honestly 100% of the time. This applied to large and small matters – if they were late for a meeting, they had to give an honest reason why. If they were speaking about larger issues such as what they felt about a friend, partner, or family member, they had to be honest.
All participants were monitored throughout the five weeks, and researchers found that for those in the sincerity group “there were fewer headaches, not as many sore throats and fewer cases of sickness reported….There were also fewer mental health complaints, less reports of tension and anxiety in this group as compared to the controls who had still been able to tell little white lies, suggesting higher levels of health overall.”
This is an amazing finding to me, because it is a physical illustration of the power that honesty can have in our lives. If we can think about honesty as a pathway to emotional, mental AND physical health, perhaps it will make it easier for us to embrace honesty and to move through those moments when we’re tempted to tell a little white lie.
I know from first-hand experience that being honest doesn’t “just happen,” and that it won’t happen overnight. I work on my own path to honesty every day, and I find myself challenged along the way, like most people are. That’s why in Rewired, I offer an honesty challenge that I believe will help condition our minds and our hearts to be honest – in the same way that athletes have to condition their bodies and minds to compete.
If you’d like a partner in your “honesty training,” please reach out to me. I work with clients every day who are striving to be more honest and who are witnessing the incredible positive changes that honesty can bring about in their lives.