From bedtime tales, blockbuster movies to lyrical music - humans are transfixed to communicate ideas and emotions through stories. The National Storytelling Network even defines Storytelling as an ancient art form and a valuable form of human expression.
Given its potential, storytelling has also been acknowledged in the realm of mental health as something called Narrative Therapy. Incorporating storytelling into therapy may be a relatively new treatment approach. However, there is already some evidence that it is helpful for a variety of conditions including anxiety and depression.
The Benefits of Storytelling
Evidently, storytelling is a central part of human communication and emotional expression. Sharing our experiences through stories, especially the tough ones, acts as an attempt to release ourselves from them. Beyond that, we can evolve and grow beyond them.
1. Storytelling establishes common ground and empathy
Have you listened to someone share about a life experience and thought, ‘Wow, someone else has been through that too? I thought it was just me!’
Clearly, sharing your story has the potential to help someone else feel less alone. Our stories are powerful because they evoke compassion even among strangers. We also create opportunities to understand others better and to cultivate empathy towards them.
2. Storytelling helps us cope with our emotions in a healthy manner
Research (2) shows that storytelling such as expressive writing can help us deal with stressful and traumatic events and can even positively impact our health. This is because storytelling helps people identify alternative narratives, widen their views of self, challenge unhealthy beliefs, and open them to new mindsets that reflect a more accurate and healthy story.
3. Storytelling improves our problem-solving skills
When we share our stories, we typically talk about both our problems and our strengths. By exploring our experiences in-depth, we discover the true causes of our struggles as well as how we can use our strengths to approach them. Not only that, storytelling challenges us to separate ourselves from our problems. This process makes it easier for us to be proactive and make rational decisions.
How To Get Started
Stories are about so much more than just reading or listening. And they’re not exclusive to writers and movie directors. Rather, stories are instrumental in our cognitive, social and emotional development. Let’s look at how you can get started:
1. Acknowledge your nerves
Whether you’re speaking to one person or a hundred, sharing your story can be a scary thing to do. However, acknowledging your nerves and celebrating your vulnerabilities can help you soften these fears.
Give yourself as much time as you need. And if sharing your story too many times feels intimidating, you can always find one person you trust to talk it out instead.
2. Pick your platform
There’s no right way nor perfect platform to share your story. How and where to share it is completely up to you. Perhaps you’re most relaxed sitting down with friends and family. Or maybe you prefer putting it up on a blog or Instagram post. Feel free to pick one platform or person you feel most comfortable with.
3. Use narrative prompts
It’s easy for people to start storytelling when they’ve had a memorable experience they’re excited to share. But sometimes it isn’t always natural for us to come up with a personal narrative. Therefore, story prompts are an effective way to get us thinking about our life experiences.
Selecting a prompt that intrigues you helps you develop a story with vivid characters, actions, and emotions. Remember, you’re revealing not just what happened to you, but also a piece of yourself.
Here are a couple of narrative prompts to get you started:
Write a story about something you accomplished.
Write about how you failed to achieve something and what you learned.
Write a story of the best, strangest, or worst thing that happened to you.
Danish author Isak Dinesen once quoted, “To be a person is to have a story to tell.”
As our human experiences are so complex, it’s necessary for us to find a way to make sense of them. Hence, humans are naturally drawn to share experiences through various mediums of storytelling.
By tapping into the power of storytelling, we recognize the control we have over our thoughts, emotions, and even actions. Ultimately, this type of attitudinal shift we gain from sharing our stories can empower us to become more resilient in our daily lives.
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