Storytelling: A Compelling Way to Heal

Every life of every person portrays a story, whether that story is shared is a personal choice. Some may feel discouraged and doubt the gravity of their story’s importance or impact; it is human to box others into neat and confined stereotypes because we try to relate and connect with the inner worlds of strangers and even with our own family and friends. However, our stories are much more rich and multi-layered especially in the face of adversity or privilege. And indeed, this creates a healing physiological response for the listener and the sharer. Sharing and listening with others in a group setting encourages and reassures us that we are all connected in our humanness.

Simply listening to others share allows you to give your undivided attention to the speaker without the expectancy of responding. Being able to relate to a story can be completely gratifying as it eases the pang of isolated thoughts and stressors. Physiologically, listening produces oxytocin in the brain—the neurochemical responsible for bonding. According to a 2017 Frontiers in Immunology review, the body “chills out” while lowering blood pressure, easing gastrointestinal /distress, and possibly exerting antibiotic-like effects that promote wound healing and suppress inflammation.” “As a listener or a reader follows along, ‘there's a feeling of catharsis and a warm connection to the storyteller’ for sharing something personal and providing a sense of resolution. You may feel calmer for about 30 minutes after the story has ended.” Listening quells the burden of our own problems and insecurities and challenges us to reframe how we perceive them. Everyone handles life's highs and lows in their own way; a story may flip the switch of a perceived weakness into an unexpected strength.

Any form of storytelling—even told via podcasts—keeps you calm and connected. Adweek draws a fascinating parallel between listening to a live speaker and listening to a minimally scripted podcast. "Listeners are engaging with podcasts for 20, 30, 40 minutes—sometimes longer—at a time. The lack of strong scripting creates a spontaneous flow, which leads listeners to repeat these conversations to their peers, their friends and their families, creating their own versions of the discussion and making new connections." Solely listening to a speaker allows the listener to fully engage in the story. In a way, it may feel like a private conversation between speaker and listener: freeing the listener to respond internally without the interference of another listener's vocalized opinion or judgment.

How do you share? Motivational speakers have made it their career to share what they know and hopefully inspire their listeners in some way or form. The therapeutic method of writing out your thoughts is itself self-healing. Research shows that “divulging troubling feelings and experiences in particular—a frightening health diagnosis, an incident of sexual harassment, a divorce—"enables you to create a coherent narrative out of something chaotic.” Developing your own narrative out of a situation that feels hopeless, daunting, or inescapable creates a structure to stand upon, allowing you to see your world at a bird's eye position. Distance indeed makes the heart grow fonder and seeing your world from third-person tense can tweak your perspective. And whether you are the speaker or listener, this is what allows you to change and grow as a person.

Speakers at Fit Pros Health Fit Talks understand this power of storytelling. A popular Health Fit Talk workshop, Mindfulness: Tools to Disconnect, provides amazing informational tips and science-backed research into the phenomenon of mindfulness. A speaker usually imparts her personal backstory of how he or she became an avid believer of the practice. Interestingly, the speaker’s share is undoubtedly a living breathing testimony of how mindfulness inspired him or her to not only share the practice, but his or her journey as well. This may elicit an instant connection between the listener and the speaker—inviting the listener to consider implementing this practice into their lives as well.

If you are an HR manager or representative, Fit Pros strongly encourages you to emphasize storytelling as a necessary component of employee wellness. Our wellness program provides a storytelling platform in the form of health talks and workshops. Employees could deepen their understanding of what sustaining wellness really entails, as we know it extends way beyond physical exercise. Fit Pros operate on the simple idea that employees value work-life balance and storytelling is one of the verticals that can make it possible for your company.

Any person who holds our attention at standstill and directs us to listen has the power to change a listener’s thoughts, reinforce beliefs, and surge creativity. And the speaker, in effect, reaffirms his or her beliefs and self-heals by influencing his or herself and the listener.

A platform that helps to release thoughts into words alone is cathartic whether or not it is well-received by the listener. No matter how you spin it, you will reap benefits. The symbiotic relationship between listener and speaker is a powerful way to connect and uncover the honest tales of the heart.

Goldman, Leslie. “Why Sharing Your Personal Story Can Offer Real Health Benefits.” 26 Jan. 2018.

Hoch, Jason. "Why the Conversational Power of Podcasting Is the Future of Advertising." 8 Sept. 2016.