Whether there is life after death remains one of the biggest mysteries to scientists and the average person. It is unlikely that an afterlife will ever be fully proven or dismissed, but simply believing in it could be beneficial to an individual. Researchers state that believing provides a sense of optimism and hope which can lead to a happier lifestyle.
Suzanne Newcombe, lecturer in Religious Studies at The Open University, said a sense of hope can allow an individual to overcome struggles in their lives.
Ms Newcombe said: “Possibly appearing in dreams or even taking a physical form from time to time in my research, I have found that in practice many people slip between ideas of mortality in the body and the idea of immortality (either as a soul, in a physical body)
“Holding open these ideas the possibility of immortality can have positive effects on health.
“From a biomedical perspective, this hope might help the body fight illnesses, improve the chances of spontaneous remissions or allow the illness to run its course, it’s more equanimity for the person involved.
“But even if there is no biological change, a focus on the possibility of immortality can help some individuals can disidentify from their bodily pain and develop a more peaceful relationship with their experience as their suffering.
“When this happens, improbable beliefs in an immortal body or soul can be seen as entirely rational and pragmatic even.
“However, when beliefs about immortality exclude attention to the biological physical body, it can have serious negative effects on health, and even cause untimely deaths.
“So, what we believe about death and our ideas of enteral life can really make a difference as to how we live, how we handle pain and suffering and experience being alive here and now.”
Some people who have had a near-death experience (NDE) believe they have seen a glimpse of the afterlife.
This can range from seeing a bright light, religious figureheads or even deceased loved ones.
However, some scientists believe these visions are more associated with a surge in brain activity shortly before death.
Researchers from the University of Michigan clinically induced cardiac arrest in rats while simultaneously monitoring their brain activity.
They were stunned to discover brain activity surged in the final 30 seconds of their life.
Jimo Borjigin, PhD, associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology and associate professor of neurology, said: “This study, performed in animals, is the first dealing with what happens to the neurophysiological state of the dying brain.
“We reasoned that if near-death experience stems from brain activity, neural correlates of consciousness should be identifiable in humans or animals even after the cessation of cerebral blood flow.”
Essentially, if the brain is more active, one might have vivid visions, leading them to believe they had seen the afterlife.
Dr Borjigin added: “The prediction that we would find some signs of conscious activity in the brain during cardiac arrest was confirmed with the data.”