History has shown that storytelling is a powerful tool. It’s been used to teach, entertain and spread ideas since the dawn of time.
We use stories to pass down knowledge from generation to generation, and we use them to tell ourselves about who we are and who we want to be. That’s because stories have a powerful ability to make us feel something—to connect us with others and even change how we see ourselves.
So what are the psychological benefits of storytelling? Here are ten reasons why it’s worth spending some time sharing your story (and listening to others’ stories):
#1 Storytelling helps us connect with others
Storytelling builds social bonds between people. Sharing a story about yourself gives someone else permission to share more about themselves too. They feel like they can trust you because they know some things about you already, and it invites them to share a piece of themselves with you.
When we share our stories, we create a space where people can come together around commonalities and shared experiences. As humans, we need this kind of community—it helps us feel less alone.
#2 Storytelling can help you cope with grief, trauma, and loss
When you’re going through a traumatic experience, finding the words to express what you’re feeling can be incredibly difficult. In fact, it might seem like there are no words at all. But the truth is that storytelling can help you cope with grief, trauma, and loss.
Psychology Today says that “the key to healing from traumatic stress is the telling of your own story.” By telling your story, you can cognitively restructure the experience to have a greater sense of control, safety, and hope for the future. Additionally, it helps you connect with others who can relate to your experience, making you feel less isolated and alone during this challenging time in your life.
#3 Stories increase resilience
Stories are powerful tools for developing resilience. The more we hear about people overcoming obstacles, the more we understand that we can overcome our own.
The more we see others’ stories of failure and redemption, the more we realize that failure is not permanent and redemption is always possible.
#4 Storytelling can help us learn new things about ourselves
Storytelling is a powerful way to learn about yourself. It helps you see things from a different perspective. When you tell a story, you’re forced to think about your actions, emotions, motivations, and reactions. You can’t help but look back on an experience and analyze what happened: how you felt, how others felt, and how your actions affected the feelings of others and their reactions.
By reflecting on these things, we can better understand what we like and dislike about ourselves, what motivates us, and how we respond to others. All, in turn, can help us change and grow for the better.
#5 Stories grow our empathy muscles
When we hear someone else’s story, we’re forced to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective, making it easier to empathize with others.
The more stories we hear, read, and tell, the more we’ll be able to understand different points of view, which allows us to make the world a kinder and more supportive place.
#6 Storytelling can improve your memory and attention span
When you hear a story, you’re more likely to remember it because your brain is working at a higher level of processing. The narrative structure of a story helps you make connections between ideas, which helps your brain make sense of what you’re hearing.
Storytelling is all about emotion, and emotion can help you remember things better. When you’re involved in a story, your brain has to create an elaborate mental image, which enables you to retain information.
#7 Stories can improve your creativity and problem-solving skills
Sometimes it feels like there’s only one way out of a situation, but when we look at it from another person’s point of view, we realize there are many options. That’s what stories do for us—they allow us to look at the world through someone else’s eyes and see how they would react in certain situations.
Stories help us think outside the box because they give us a chance to look at the world from a different perspective. They allow you to see things that are often invisible to us, or at least not as obvious. We are often limited to our own perspectives and experiences. But by harnessing others’ stories, we can unleash possibilities and opportunities that we never considered before.
#8 Storytelling increases self-confidence and leadership skills
Storytelling is not just a way to pass along information, but it also helps us feel more confident and empowered. When we tell stories, we can share our expertise and experience with other people in our lives. In doing so, we show them that we have something valuable to offer and that we are able to overcome obstacles life throws at us.
Storytelling also teaches how to lead by example. When you tell a story, you’re giving people a glimpse into your life where they can see how you’ve overcome obstacles or dealt with challenges in your life. This can help others understand how they could do the same thing if faced with similar issues in their own lives—and even more importantly, how they might be able to help someone else struggling through similar problems.
#9 Stories help us understand ourselves better by showing us how we’ve changed over time
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but taking a step back and examining your life through a bigger lens can give you a better sense of who you are and where you’re headed. Stories can help us reflect on our lives and see how they’ve evolved. We can use stories to show where we started, where we are now, and our future goals.
#10 Storytelling Reduces Stress
Storytelling is a great way to reduce stress. Telling stories allows you to experience connection and decrease anxiety around the challenges you’re facing in your life.
Storytelling can be as simple as writing down your experiences and sharing them with another person, whether a therapist or a loved one.
Wrapping it up
Telling your story is a powerful way to heal, connect with others, and build strength.
It can be hard to open up and share your story with others. But when you do, you can feel empowered to be yourself, even if it’s just with one person.
We invite you to share your story by being an interviewee for one of our upcoming ‘My Mental Health Story’ pieces. Email email@example.com if you’re interested.
Article written by: Hailey Rodgers, President, Step Above Stigma