Share Your Story, Boost Your Mood
Defining and sharing your own narrative story can benefit your mental health.
If you are reading this, you are what I am- human. As a human, we have for millennia made sense of the world around us in one common way, through stories. Storytelling helps to make sense and connect to others, which are fundamental human needs. It is through stories that culture, traditions, and protective mechanisms live on. We all have a story, in fact, we all have many stories. Pause for a moment and think of a great story from your life so far that you have shared with others.
Really, think about it. Go ahead, daydream for a few minutes…
Okay, come back now.
When you shared this story with others, how did you feel? How do you remember those around you feel? Sharing our greatest moments can be easy for some and hard for those humble ones reading this; regardless, those stories feel GOOD! Dare I say, we feel on top of the world sharing them. These stories build connections with others. We’ve all been at one of those parties where we know no one and to break the ice turn to the person next to us and say something along the lines of, “One time I _______.” If I were a betting person, which I am, I’d bet the sentence to follow is not, “One time I hit a car and drove off, it was awesome,” instead, it is likely something ethical and, well, more relational, “One time, I went to the movie theatre and was totally that person that laughed way too loud at the joke.” We’ve all been that person. Even you, who is saying no in your head. We can relate to this story.
It is within our DNA as humans to communicate through stories. Ancestors before us passed stories along to continue culture, protect us, and help us grow. Their stories helped us remember who we are, not to touch fire, and how to build our home. Stories inspire, stories impact, and stories comfort. What we share now will impact the present moment and generations ahead of us. However, some stories are harder to speak aloud than others.
Imagine telling your deepest secret aloud. To a group of strangers. Are your palms sweating? Mine are. Stories become more difficult when they become more personal. We are quick to tell someone we are great at a new hobby but hesitate to say we were diagnosed with depression. It is innately human to be protective of those that are closest to us, be it someone you love or a personal story. Those things we hold closest to our heart are more often than not safeguarded the tightest. Recall, however, that we would not be here today if our ancestors only passed along the recipe to the family stew. Stories of surviving famine, fighting predators and losing loved ones were passed through the ages. Over time, all stories still have antagonists, they’ve just changed. From battling bears and wolves, we battle cancer, global pandemics, depression, and anxiety. The impact of one story in today’s technologically centered world is unthinkable. Stories of today spread across the globe in a matter of seconds. One person’s story about tools to manage anxiety, feeling lonely, or battling with suicidality can connect to millions at once.
We all have stories and your story is powerful.
Your story puts into words what many feel, but few may say. Telling your story gives it meaning and greatly influences how you see yourself and the world (Clarke, 2021).
The stories we develop and carry with us throughout our life hold great connective power. Humans are fundamentally connectors. It is how we are here today, we connected. Co-Founder of PYM (Prepare Your Mind), Olivia June, explained her thoughts on storytelling and stated, “Your story could be someone else’s inspiration,” and she couldn’t be more correct. Storytelling allows others to listen to your story, which by design creates a connection between people and has been scientifically proven to improve health and well-being (Kellas et al., 2020). Your own narrative is a powerful collaborative tool to help others make sense of the world (Kellas et al., 2020). I hope if nothing else, that makes you feel cool. It can actually help boost your mood. So re-read that sentence. I bolded it for you so you know what to read again.
Thank you for amusing me.
What’s even cooler, that is a scientific fact. By sharing your story, you are creating sense in other people’s lives. Our lives are made sense through communication with others (Kellas et al., 2020). A life talking to a wall makes much less sense of the world than a life talking to another human. The point here- storytelling builds connection and breaks stigma.
You go from feeling alone to feeling understood.
If you’re me at this point in this blog you’re probably wondering what’s in it for you? I’d want to know, too. There are great personal benefits to sharing your story. Research on storytelling, sometimes called narrative therapy or individual sense-making, “shows that writing or talking about trauma benefits people in terms of their physical and mental health. These benefits derive from catharsis, the sense of control that accompanies cognitive processing, and the interpersonal communication that follows individually writing or talking about trauma (Kellas et al, 2020, page 362). In other words, that deep dark secret you thought about earlier, if you were to tell that to strangers, you would feel better. It can actually boost your mood. When we hold those difficult stories close to our hearts, we not only get in the way of connecting to others, we also get in the way of a more positive connection to ourselves.
Maybe sharing your story the first time looks like writing it on a sticky note, great! Maybe it looks like closing your bathroom door and saying it out loud to yourself in the mirror. Or maybe it looks like telling your loved ones your story after years of holding it close to your heart. If you’re that reader ready to tell strangers on a megaphone in central park, great! Here’s a tongue twister for you- your story to storytelling is also part of your story. Take your time. Inhale. Exhale. It is not in our DNA for this to be easy, but it is in our DNA to try.
I'll leave you with a thought. Storytelling a millennia ago helped our ancestors to not starve, mind you there was no such thing as Twitter or texting. Thanks to those technological wizards out there, we have a massive leg up to the storytellers of yesterday. Words today touch more lives at one time than at any other time in history. The words of your story will change many.
What story are you going to share?
- Kelli Gerrans, M.S. Clinical Psychology
Jodi Clarke, M. A. (2021, May 4). How Narrative Therapy Works. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/narrative-therapy-4172956.Kellas, J. K., Morgan, T., Taladay, C., Minton, M., Forte, J., & Husmann, E. (2020, October 6). Narrative Connection: Applying CNSM Theory's Translational Storytelling Heuristic. Taylor & Francis. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15267431.2020.1826485.