They say you can’t take it with you, but what about your positive states of mind?

     Developing your compassionate insight takes time, dedication, and effort. Research provided on this web site ( documents many of the mental and physical health benefits of doing so. Would it encourage you to practice the exercises for developing compassionate insight more regularly if you knew that those benefits might accompany you beyond this life? The Journal of Mind and Behavior recently published an article, What is Mind and What Happens to It When We Die?, which explores an ongoing debate between materialists and nonmaterialists about the nature of mind and death. Materialists assert that the mind is totally dependent on neural functioning and therefore dies with the body. In contrast, nonmaterialists believe that mind and body are temporarily dependent on each other, but that some aspect of the mind might survive physical death.  A body of evidence has emerged over several decades of research that seems to question materialist assumptions that our minds will end at death. This evidence shows “…instances of the mind impacting neurology and apparently functioning independently from it, which offers credibility to the nonmaterialist stance that the mind is a continuum substantially different from matter and therefore might survive somatic death in some form” (Hurley, 2024). If our minds survive our physical deaths, it might be possible that progress you make during your life in developing your compassionate insight will travel with you.

     Viewpoints about the nature of mind can have a deep impact on mental health and on finding purpose in life. For example, assumptions that death will end consciousness and suffering might contribute to suicidal logic, “suicidal adolescents are more likely to believe that death is a viable escape from pain and…this death-related cognition is a risk factor for suicidal ideation (Tezanos, K.M., Pollak, O.H. and Cha, C.B., 2021).” Suicide rates have been increasing in the United States and are currently a leading cause of death (NIMH, 2022). It is hard to know whether materialist assumptions that the mind ends at death might have have contributed to this disturbing trend. In my years as a mental health clinician, I have often heard clients who are contemplating suicide say that ending their life will end their mind and thus their suffering. If the scientific evidence of the mind surviving physical death is accurate, such thoughts are not only tragic but mistaken.

     People who believe in life after death have better mental health outcomes than those without such beliefs (Flannelly, Koenig, Ellison, Galek, Krause, 2006). In the elderly, “Bleak or uncertain views about the afterlife are associated with multiple aspects of distress postloss” (Carr and Sharp, 2014). Belief in an afterlife has also been linked to enhanced altruism (Nejad, Borjali, Khanjani, and Kruger, 2021, April-June). Since scientific evidence has emerged supporting the possibility that some aspect of the mind might survive physical death, why not take care of your mind at least as much as you take care of your body? After all, a calm, loving, and compassionate mind benefits us and others in the here and now, and it might continue to benefit us beyond this life as well.

  • Carr, D., Sharp, S. (2014). Do afterlife beliefs affect psychological adjustment to late-life spousal loss? The Journals of Gerontology, Series B, Psychological sciences and Social Sciences, 69(1):103-12. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbt063. Epub 2013 Jun 29. PMID: 23811692; PMCID: PMC3894123.
  • Flannelly, K., Koenig, H., Ellison, C., Galek, K., Krause, N. (2006). Belief in life after death and mental health, findings from a national survey. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 194, 524-529. doi:
  • Hurley, W.C. (2024). What is mind and what happens to it when we die? The Journal of Mind and Behavior, 45(1), 95-120.
  • Nejad, S.R., Borjali, A., Khanjani, M., and Kruger, D.J. (2021, April-June). Belief in an Afterlife Influences Altruistic Helping Intentions in Alignment with Adaptive Tendencies. Evolutionary Psychology, 1-8. doi: 10.1177/14747049211011745
  • National Institute of Mental Health (2022), Suicide.
  • Tezanos, K.M., Pollak, O.H. and Cha, C.B. (2021), Conceptualizing death: How do suicidal adolescents view the end of their lives? Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 51(4), 807-815. doi: 1111/sltb.12774