On a more specific note, researchers have also found that mowing the lawn is great for you. When green grass is cut, it releases a certain chemical that blocks stress receptors in your brain, so the act of trimming your front yard can actually calm you down. In addition, you get a decent cardio workout from pushing the lawnmower back and forth, which releases endorphins that also make you feel pretty awesome. People with riding mowers presumably replace the cardio bonus with the psychological benefits inherent to tearing around on a toy truck with giant, roaring murder weapons underneath.
"Destroying living things with a whip powered by explosions really validates my humanity."
Death is a difficult thing to wrap your mind around. Some people never come to terms with it. You are dead much longer than you are alive, your existence temporary and your nonexistence permanent. It's a tough concept to reconcile, and there's no possible way it can be anything but depressing, right?
Nope. As it turns out, when people think about death, they generally become more pleasant and less crotchety, making better company for everyone around them.
"Hey, girl! Oh, not much, just contemplating the futility of life and the never-ceasing approach of eternal darkness."
To test the effects of mortality-pondering, researchers examined how people behaved when death had been introduced to their minds, even in the subtlest way possible. In one experiment, they had a group walking right beside a cemetery and another walking a block away next to nothing in particular. An actor would pass both groups and "accidentally" drop a notebook right in front of them. The group closer to the cemetery was 40 percent more likely to help the actor pick up the notebook. The researchers believe that this is because the graveyard made them think about death and, subsequently, how they might live with a little more charity and fellowship while they still could.
The connection may seem like a bit of a leap, but there are several other studies that support this theory. One saw that people with a higher awareness of death were more likely to engage in conservational behavior (like recycling), and another found that when reminded of death, people are more likely to use sunscreen and quit smoking, and generally be more patient with each other. So why does the looming presence of death make us behave more decently? For pretty much the same reason the researchers in the notebook test came up with -- when we're reminded of our own mortality, we want to be better people and make our short time on this world more positive and valuable.
"All the hours I've wasted watching Lost ... I could have been watching The Wire on DVD!"
So, as strange as it might feel, give your own mortality a think every once in a while when you're feeling blah. Or you can just wait for one of the many scientists around the world who apparently go around reminding people about death before making them perform seemingly unrelated and nonsensical tasks.
Now that Cracked has completely changed your life for the better by leading you down the path to enlightenment (you're welcome, by the way), watch this video and be happy.
XJ would like to dedicate this article to the only person in the world who (intuitively) makes him happy -- Nadia. You can read more from him on his writing blog, and he'll love you for an entire minute if you follow him on his Twitter.
But before you go getting all gleeful and shit, check out 5 Things You Think Will Make You Happy (But Won't) and 5 Scientific Reasons Your Idea of Happiness Is Wrong.