Healthy Mind

Decoding the health ben­e­fits of writ­ing your life story...

Health & Nutrition - - CONTENTS -

As we grow older, there may be a ten­dency to feel less rel­e­vant to the peo­ple around us. But here’s an idea that will help you stay in the game. It’s sim­ple: Write your life story. You would be sur­prised at how in­ter­ested your peers and fam­ily mem­bers are in your sto­ries and per­sonal his­tory. You have a unique first­hand ac­count of your cul­ture and his­tory that oth­ers don’t, and leav­ing a recorded his­tory of your life can be an im­por­tant gift to both you and your de­scen­dants. Leav­ing some kind of legacy can be a driv­ing force for many peo­ple. How do you want peo­ple to re­mem­ber you? Sure, you’d like to leave be­hind money or per­sonal items to your grand­chil­dren, fam­ily, and friends, but the gift that lit­er­ally can last for­ever is your per­sonal his­tory.

Words of Wis­dom When peo­ple pass away, so of­ten their sto­ries die with them. Think about how, as you get older, you wish you knew more about your grand­par­ents or great-grand­par­ents and how they lived. Be­sides shar­ing your sto­ries, your mem­oirs can be an op­por­tu­nity to pass along spe­cific wis­dom and life lessons. Even if you write about parts of your life that you have never told any­one be­cause they were un­happy or painful, re­vis­it­ing them can show oth­ers the strength it takes to over­come life bar­ri­ers when they face their own. Writ­ing your per­sonal his­tory can also be a ther­a­peu­tic tool as you ex­plore is­sues that may still trou­ble you. A study pub­lished by ‘JAMA Psy­chi­a­try’ found that a type of writ­ing ther­apy, called writ­ten ex­posed ther­apy, was just as ef­fec­tive as tra­di­tional cog­ni­tive pro­cess­ing ther­apy in treat­ing adults with post­trau­matic stress disor­der. In writ­ten ex­posed ther­apy, you write about a spe­cific up­set­ting mem­ory. By writ­ing about their ex­pe­ri­ences, peo­ple of­ten can process feel­ings that they tend to avoid think­ing about or shar­ing, ac­cord­ing to the re­searchers.

A Walk Down Mem­ory Lane You don’t have to fol­low a straight year-by-year ac­count when writ­ing your story. You can cre­ate a time­line of your life based on the places you have lived. Be­gin with writ­ing about your homes. Think about the house you grew up in, or the first house or car you owned. What mem­o­ries come to mind? The places you’ve lived of­ten in­voke a wealth of vis­ual mem­o­ries and long-for­got­ten sto­ries that are tied to those places. Other sources of in­spi­ra­tion are early jobs, or hob­bies

Be­gin with writ­ing about your homes. Think about the house you grew up in, or the first house or car you owned. What mem­o­ries come to mind?

or sports you en­joyed. For in­stance, if you were once an avid ten­nis player but are no longer able to play, you could share your knowl­edge, in­sight, and love of the game with fu­ture play­ers like your grand­kids. An­other way to trig­ger ideas is to look through photo al­bums. Fo­cus on a sin­gle pic­ture and write about the story be­hind it. Or use writ­ing prompts, by ask­ing your­self ques­tions, such as “One of my fond­est mem­o­ries of my best friend was…” or “The time I was hap­pi­est or most scared was…” Once you get go­ing, you will be sur­prised at the mem­o­ries that will bub­ble to the sur­face and mo­ti­vate you to write them down. You’ll dis­cover that your life and your sto­ries are still quite rel­e­vant.

Putting Your Thoughts on Pa­per While writ­ing on a com­puter is eas­ier and faster, writ­ing long­hand at times can pro­vide an ex­tra brain boost. Re­search has found that handwriting, es­pe­cially in cur­sive, can ac­ti­vate parts of the brain re­spon­si­ble for short- and long-term mem­ory. The slower process also may help im­prove at­ten­tion and in­for­ma­tion pro­cess­ing, since you have to fo­cus on form­ing let­ters and words.

Re­search has found that handwriting, es­pe­cially in cur­sive, can ac­ti­vate parts of the brain re­spon­si­ble for short- and long-term mem­ory.

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