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Studies show benefits of engaging in Life Review

  • by Maria Lopez
  • November 7, 2023

Many of us have seen or read stories about palliative care biography in the media and been impressed by it’s potential. Five years ago, there was only one palliative care volunteer service in NSW offering biography to clients. Now, there are a dozen services which operate in regional areas as well as in Sydney.

Engaging in life review involves revisiting one’s life experiences and can be a profoundly meaningful and therapeutic activity for clients. We think of palliative care biography as a kind of dignity therapy which aims to enhance psychological wellbeing and reduce distress.

A recent article published in Psychology Today shows that studies have proven the many benefits and profound impacts of these activities. One study and found that individuals who engaged in a structured life review process reported increased life satisfaction and a greater sense of purpose.

Enhanced Psychological Well-Being

Engaging in a life review exercise can promote a more positive outlook on life and allows individuals to make sense of their life’s journey, acknowledge their accomplishments, and find closure with unresolved issues. It can reduce feelings of regret and foster a sense of acceptance and contentment and is associated with feelings of happiness and satisfaction.

Strengthened Interpersonal Relationships

By revisiting past relationships and events, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of their connections with others. This understanding often leads to increased empathy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It can foster emotional closeness and healing, and can strengthen bonds with loved ones.

Reduction in Psychological Distress

Facing end of life comes with a lot of emotions but studies show engaging with life review reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. By reviewing and processing their life experiences, individuals can gain a sense of control and mastery over their own narrative, reducing feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. They have an opportunity to let go of emotional burdens and unresolved issues.

Enhanced Self-Identity and Legacy Building

Articulating their life story strengthens self-identity, contributes to a sense of integrity, and provides a profound sense of closure and fulfillment. A life review often leads to sharing one’s wisdom, values, and life lessons for future generations and produces a treasured legacy document for those left behind. This legacy-building process can be deeply meaningful and fulfilling, allowing individuals to feel that their life has made some kind of lasting impact on the world.

Improved Coping with Life Challenges

Life review exercises can provide a valuable coping mechanism for dealing with pain and grief, and physical, emotional, and existential challenges. It helps individuals find meaning in their life, even in the face of suffering and loss. By focusing on positive aspects of their life story and identifying the strengths they have developed over the years, individuals can better navigate the challenges associated with adversity.

As these studies show, life review can be an incredibly powerful and healing experience, enabling individuals to find closure, come to terms with past events, and create a meaningful legacy for future generations. This valuable tool can help guide one towards a more peaceful and fulfilling end of life.

Read more about the benefits of conducting a Life Review exercise here

Source: Psychology today

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