The Power of Stories (and a Hug or a Walk)

We all strive to be healthy and happy, yes? Turns out there a few simple things we can do that don’t cost a thing and will boost our overall well-being. New research shows that storytelling can be a tonic.

I’ve always had a hunch that was the case, but a scientific report has validated that the act of hearing, watching or telling a story holds the power to heal, connect and move us to action.

In a recent New York Times story reporting on a new study, Dr. Thomas K Houston, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School explains that “telling and listening to stories is the way we make sense of our lives.” He adds, “The magic of stories lies in the relatedness they foster” and that “stories may also help those patients who struggle with more ‘silent’ chronic diseases.”

Sound familiar? I marvel at the comfort and healing that comes from hearing your stories (like that of Mali from New Zealand) as well as sharing my own. Here’s how experts in the emerging field of narrative communication describe why it works:

Storytelling effectively counteracts the initial denial that can arise when a [person] learns of a new diagnosis or is asked to change deeply ingrained behaviors. [They] may react to this news by thinking, ‘This is not directly related to me,’ or ‘My experience is different.’ Stories help break down that denial by engaging the listener, often through some degree of identification with the storyteller or one of the characters.

As I’ve said before, we’re the stars of our own lives. Think of yourself as the protagonist and what your story can teach you and others. Another way to connect? The hug. The health benefits of a hug are many and they’re laid out fully in this article.

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And, last but not least, if you want to remember your favorite stories or hugs, go for a walk.

In healthy adults, the hippocampus — a part of the brain important to the formation of memories — begins to atrophy around 55 or 60. Now psychologists are suggesting that the hippocampus can be modestly expanded, and memory improved, by nothing more than regular walking.

Editor’s note: I look forward to tomorrow when I get to meet fellow author and non-mom Lisa Manterfield for the first time in person. Our visit, I’m sure, will involve much story telling and a few hugs. I imagine there will be much to think about and remember so I’ll follow up with a nice long walk on Sunday…

Pamela Tsigdinos

Writer, blogger and, oh, yeah, infertility survivor. My memoir, Silent Sorority, tells the whole story. There's a movie in there somewhere. Given the quirkiness needed to relate it all I'm thinking Jennifer Lawrence would be a good fit.

2 thoughts on “The Power of Stories (and a Hug or a Walk)

  1. Wow. I’m a little star-struck that you mentioned me!! I’m also – like Loribeth – a little jealous you’re meeting up with Lisa.

    I like to think that each blog post from any of us in this community – and certainly any comments – are as good as a hug for those of us who read.

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