Is the Key to Happiness the Story You Tell Yourself?

It turns out a highly effective treatment for depression may be rewriting the story of your life in your head. Psychotherapy has focused on this method of talking out new perspectives on life stories and found success in treating depression.

As explained by psychologist Michele Crossley, the condition of depression is a result of people who tell themselves an “inadequate narrative account of oneself” or “a life story gone awry.”

Rewriting your life story can be therapeutic
This process of psychotherapy helps people to rewrite the narrative in their head about their life story in order to find a sense of peace and satisfaction. According to an article in American Psychologist, this talking method has proven to be as effective, and in some cases more so, than medication.

Similarly, looking at your life story and believing that things worked out as they were “meant to” can give you a sense of deeper meaning. You can appreciate the difficult things in life and have a better appreciation for the benefits of your life journey.

What we watch regularly can impact how we view the world
How we view the world can also be determined by the stories in our mind. In a study by Austrian psychologist Marcus Appel, it was discovered that people who watched mostly drama and comedy television shows had strong beliefs that the world is just. This was significantly stronger than people who watched mostly news and documentary programs.

Appel concluded that the constant exposure to fiction with a theme of poetic justice gave people an unrealistic belief of justice prevailing in the world as a whole. Whereas, people who watched the news realized that many crimes go unpunished.

We can affect positive life changes by editing our story
Editing the life story in your mind can also bring about change in how you live, and this can help people to reinvent themselves.

be happy “The idea is that if we want to change people’s behaviors, we need to try to get inside their heads and understand how they see the world — the stories and narratives they tell themselves about who they are and why they do what they do… As Kurt Vonnegut famously wrote, ‘We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be,'” explained Timothy Wilson, author of Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change.

Stories can also affect us negatively
It is important to realize that the stories we tell ourselves can be destructive and damaging as well. Many people suffer unnecessary anxiety on a daily basis because of the stories they tell themselves.

If someone forgets to call you after saying they would, or your boss asks to talk to you, or your teenage child doesn’t arrive home on time, it is easy to fill in the blanks with assumptions that are inaccurate. Jumping to conclusions and fabricating an explanation that is likely inaccurate can cause very damaging emotions and anxiety.

Successfully dealing with anxiety resulting from negative thinking

  • Be alert to signs your body may be giving you, such as a racing heartbeat, that indicate trouble.
  • Take a couple of deep breaths and try to focus on dispelling your worry.
  • Realize what you do and don’t have control over, and let go of things you cannot change.
  • Give yourself positive feedback and ideas to bring about an optimistic mindset.
  • Do something that gives you a sense of peace, such as a long walk or connecting with a good friend.

—The Alternative Daily


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