There are many health benefits of storytelling, from improved social skills to decreased stress levels. Learning how to tell stories can even improve your overall health in ways you might not expect! Here are ten ways storytelling provides mental and physical health benefits.
1) Improves Memory
Research has shown that those who tell stories can improve their memory by strengthening connections between separate brain regions. In one particular study, conducted at Western University in Ontario, Canada, researchers found that people who told stories experienced a 20 percent increase in strength of white matter fibers connecting various regions of their brains. This doesn’t just help them remember—it can also help them prevent serious age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
2) Overcoming Stress
According to Yoga Journal, storytelling is a great way to combat stress—there’s something about focusing on someone else’s life that allows us to detach from our own problems. In turn, our brains release endorphins and serotonin—chemicals responsible for feelings of well-being. This physical calming can also have psychological benefits: We learn not only how to manage stress but that it’s okay to take time out for ourselves.
A 2013 study found that people who participate in arts programs are less likely to die from heart disease or cancer than those who don’t. Additionally, art—which storytelling certainly qualifies as—has been shown to help people release their negative emotions more easily.
3) Being Creative
Creativity is a mental health benefit of storytelling. Research shows that it actually improves memory because when you’re creating something, your brain has to store all of those new pieces of information. This can also be helpful for older adults who are trying to hold onto their memories as they age. And while creativity may not seem like a physical health benefit at first glance, studies have shown that creative people tend to live longer than others—even if they have other risk factors for heart disease or cancer. For example, one study found that people who worked in artistic fields had lower rates of death from cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t work in these fields.
4) Avoiding Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a complex, neurodegenerative condition that occurs when our brain cells are unable to function properly. Scientists aren’t sure what causes Alzheimer’s, but researchers agree that there is an increased likelihood of getting it if you have high blood pressure or cholesterol. Luckily, telling stories has been proven to protect your memory from diseases like Alzheimer’s by keeping your mind active. You can help prevent degenerative conditions by practicing oral storytelling in various ways such as using a platform like Storii, in which you receive weekly automated calls asking you questions about your life. Storii records your answers and saves them to your secure profile for family members to enjoy. It makes for a great legacy project!
One of the many potential health benefits of storytelling is its relaxing effect. The act of sharing stories can help reduce stress levels and promote mental clarity, which can have a tremendous impact on our physical health. An active imagination is also a great way to ward off any number of physical maladies, from migraines to high blood pressure.
6) Improving Sleep Quality
Research suggests that storytelling can improve sleep quality in adults. In fact, studies have shown that people who are regularly engaged in storytelling fall asleep faster and remain asleep longer than those who do not engage in storytelling. For children, regular engagement with stories—reading or hearing them aloud—promotes healthy sleeping patterns from an early age.
7) Prevent Heart Disease
One of stories’ well-known benefits is that it can lower blood pressure and decrease stress. There’s a saying: Stress kills. While it might sound like an overstatement, you may be surprised to learn that nearly 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related issues—problems that could often be prevented by reaping the health benefits of storytelling. Just imagine how many lives could be saved if doctors actually encouraged their patients to tell more stories! (Plus, storytellers live longer.)
8) Relieving Depression
While you may not be able to completely prevent depression, there are a number of studies showing that storytelling can decrease depressive symptoms in up to 50% of patients. By sharing your experiences with others, you’re allowing yourself a chance to feel heard; and by allowing yourself to listen to other people’s stories, you open yourself up to understanding them. Depression stems from feelings of isolation; by hearing one another’s stories, we can begin to feel less alone.
9) Lower Blood Pressure
Telling stories has been proven to lower blood pressure. Whether you tell a story to a friend, write one down, or even just recall an anecdote from your past, storytelling can lead to better health. If you’re interested in lowering your blood pressure, consider incorporating oral storytelling into your daily routine. This might include having lunch with a friend who loves to hear stories—you can swap stories about work or family life.
10) Reducing Pain
Did you know that simply by telling a story, you can actually reduce physical pain? According to a 2006 study at Columbia University, patients who were undergoing surgery requiring general anesthesia reported lower levels of pain during procedures when they engaged in storytelling with their nurses. What’s more, they were also able to reduce their own dosages of prescribed painkillers.
Receive Life Story Calls
Support a loved one's mental and physical health by supporting them to build up their life story! Storii has hundreds of meaningful questions you've never thought to ask. Queue these up or add your own custom story prompts. On the days and times you set, your loved one will receive an automated phone call asking life story questions. All they have to do is press 1 to record their answer over the phone.
Recordings will be transcribed and the audio file stored on their Storii profile. You will be notified whenever there is a new answer! Use photos, videos, and text to accompany their answers. Life stories can easily be shared via email, links, downloaded or printed off as a beautiful keepsake.
Give the gift of stories today!