There are so many reasons to write our life stories. My last blog listed 20 in fact. But perhaps my personal favorite is the one that the New York Times discussed in a recent article, “Writing Your Way to Happiness.”
Yes, happiness. According to the article, expressive writing – and rewriting – can bring about greater peace and contentment. When we sit down and pen our stories – putting real thought and attention to the task – we deepen our understanding, we see circumstances anew. Indeed, research shows that “by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.”
The article lists example after example in which study participants flourished after writing about difficult situations: college freshmen who were struggling academically, African American coeds who felt that they didn’t fit in, married couples who were butting heads. In each situation, writing about their predicament yielded growth. Yielded greater happiness.
According to Dr. James Pennebaker, a leader in the personal writing research world, “The idea here is getting people to come to terms with who they are, where they want to go. I think of expressive writing as a life course correction.”
When you look back on your life and put your thoughts into words, you have the chance to reframe the choices you made. You have the chance to understand situations from a more mature perspective. You have the chance to make peace with who are you and create a brighter future.
So yes, as a personal historian, I believe in the importance of preserving family histories, sharing lessons learned with loved ones, and honoring the path you’ve chosen. I believe in those goals passionately in fact. But achieving a more profound happiness? Could there be anything better than that?
Please let me know if I can help.