Why blogging is good for your mental health – Shared stories empower people.

The power of storytelling.

I started this blog in October 2018. I wrote two short posts about burnout. Almost a year later I needed to pour my thoughts onto my screen just to get them out of my head. It worked. Somehow I was able to work through what was troubling my mind at the time and I’ve found a safe place to store it. I was experiencing burnout and my mind couldn’t stop racing, not during the night and not during the day.

Initially I didn’t blog about ‘my story’ at all. I looked everything up what I could find under the sun about depression which I was diagnosed with 9 month later. With the help of medication, therapy and a small supportive system I felt at least supported and understood. I used my blog as a ‘dumping ground’ for all my thoughts and knowledge that I’ve built up. I wasn’t working at the time and when I had some little energy to meet up with friends I couldn’t speak about depression all the time. Although I gained a lot of knowledge about all the possible symptoms, how sleep and thoughts are influenced, why you aren’t motivated to do anything and that you experience hopelessness and loss of pleasure.

Trusting all my thoughts into my blog felt fine. It was a relief. Looking back I couldn’t dream that I really would be blogging about ‘my story’, abuse and difficult relationships with family a year later. I’ve never thought that I would be courageous enough to do that. But it came naturally, through reading stories of other people. People that I don’t know in real life but who were kind, caring and sympathetic towards me. They wrote so openly about their life experiences of all sorts that something opened up inside of me and I made the biggest jump ever; I wrote about what is very painful and difficult for me.

But why would I do that? Isn’t that dangerous or just plain silly?

Emotional, autobiographical storytelling can be a path to truly owning your story.

The most important advantage to me is that by writing you’re able to put your story down. It can lift the weight off your shoulders. ‘Emotional, autobiographical storytelling means writing about events and people that have mattered to you in your own life–not just describing the facts of your lives’. The second advantage is that readers can identify themselves with your story. People form communities through shared knowledge. Not one story will be identical and thus, while you recognize elements, you can learn new ways of looking at it, dealing with hardships or laugh together with fun moments. Sharing makes you care and it forms a bond. Did you know that when listening to a story, the same regions in the brain will become active in the teller as in the audience? The teller literally puts his or her emotions into you. I don’t want to make this sound scary but that is the way it works on a more biological level[1].  

Surprisingly, the evidence from many studies suggests that it is not necessary to “keep” a journal, as people say. Even writing on just one or two days, if you really put yourself into it, that can have significant psychological benefits.

Here are some of the benefits that seem most important[2].

  • Realizing that sharing your story can help others. Resilience is strengthened by recognizing that we are all experts in our own lives and we all have something to share with others. Sharing your story can be a part of your healing process. Again I’m referring to the starting point of my blog. I initially looked online for recovery stories from burnout. I wanted to discover the magic wand that would swoop all of my misery away. I discovered that there was no such thing as a magical wand but that stories weren’t that easy to find. The ones that I did find didn’t resonate with me because they seemed to be too advanced in their recovery process and I didn’t find any hope in them. I was at the bottom and the stories started at least half way. I stayed at the bottom and kept on looking for some light. Once I got the more accurate diagnosis of depression, I found people and their stories that brought me some real encouragement.

  • Finding your voice. It means learning how to express yourself and learning how to think about what has happened in your life in a way that makes sense. Developing and organizing your story often means imposing a traditional story structure on the events of your life. It helps to think about your life as a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It helps to think about how the various events—even the bad ones—have been part of a journey toward the person you became or want to become. Writing it down or telling it to someone else can help you impose that organization on it, help you identify key events, and even help you just rehearse and remember the details in a way that helps you become the author of your own life.

  • Re-affirming your values. Sometimes you learn things about yourself from the act of writing or storytelling. It can be a way to clarify what is important. We all lead busy lives, there is always something to do. By pausing the hustle and bustle and reflecting on our own life, things emerge from the grey area to the forefront of our brain. It becomes more clear to us what we are occupied with and what matters to us the most.  

  • Finding peace, finding hope. What’s the difference between someone who has achieved resilience and someone who has not? One important difference is a sense of well-being. People who have found their voice, shared their story, and reaffirmed their values often find a sense of peace and a hopefulness that they did not have before.

  • Finding purpose and strength. For me mental illness made everything meaningless and hopeless. By taking one step after the other to construct my story, it helps me to pick up the pieces that life events did shatter. I look at them one by one and piece them together with golden glue. Something that once was broken but can be repaired through thoughtful action, has the opportunity for a second life no?

Resources, notes and references.

[1] Stephens GJ, Silbert LJ, Hasson U. Speaker-listener neural coupling underlies successful communication. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Aug 10;107(32):14425-30.

[2]   Online article in Psychology Today. Resilience and 4 benefits of sharing your story.

Picture credits click here.

28 thoughts on “Why blogging is good for your mental health – Shared stories empower people.

  1. I think it’s also really empowering to take charge of our own stories. It happens far too often that other people try to dictate our stories for us, and being able to take a stance where this is my story, and this is my telling of it, is a very powerful thing.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I have found the same, in terms of being a place to braindump. Bear in mind though that as soon as you put something out there, people are able to pass judgement on you, maybe even leave comments to that effect. Those comments might be either positive or negative. I normally find this to be a benign place but was chatting to someone once who made persistently negative comments. So I think we need to be strong enough to be able to cope with that. Or just not allow comments, but that will be punitive towards the 99% of people who wish us well.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I know it’s a risk you take because people can react how they want of course.
        I would think you can block one person, I’m not sure though.
        I try to mix my posts so that they aren’t all that personal but as it is a personal blog …
        I guess part of healing is to be strong enough not to care about the opinion of everybody else but to own your story. I also know that it’s easier said than done.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yes I think most people will be supportive, because that is just how we are, but certainly in real life I have met people who have no idea, I guess there must be some on here too.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. They are everywhere. We are lucky to have such a nice community here. I may think that support is also available when encountering not understanding or negative people (with negative comments I mean) – like you had a conversation about that with your friend (who got nasty comments).

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I wonder why that is? But yes, I notice it as well. My theory is that everybody joins WP with the intention of writing something, so are more sympathetic to other authors. Which is maybe not the case on FB.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. I do wonder too. I guess maybe they write too – like you said – and they appreciate a nice comment as well.
        On FB it’s about the clicks and the likes I guess and it’s more easy to spread nasty things.
        Maybe it’s because writing is a slower process and people are more thoughtful about it.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Yes and I suppose a post on here is typically a lot longer than a FB post, so there is more time to explore.
        I think also a lot of people who are attracted to blogging have gone through their own trouble (you and I both) so are more able to relate to somebody else’s troubles. Not the exact circumstance, but just the empathy aspect.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. One thing I’ll mention is that in both of my stints in rehab, the first thing they had us do was write our “life story” or at least what brought us to where we were that day. Unlike what we do here, we had to hand write it, which forces people to really think about what they’re putting down on paper since it’s a slower process. But, even typing forces you to slow down since none of us can type at the speed we think. Writing about yourself may seem self-centered or uncomfortable, but I think it’s the best way to process what is and has happened to you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I thought for a long time that it is self-centered but on the other hand, it really helps me to finish my thoughts and to get me out of the loop of thinking about the same things over and over again. It seems to contain things.
      So I agree that it’s a good way to process things. Also, you’re able to see changes in thought patterns when you write or type them out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so true. At first, I used to scribble little bits of memories and insights on pieces of paper to try and organise my thoughts and feelings to get them out of my head. Then I realised I could start putting it together in chronological order. That’s when I started my blog so I could edit and add parts more easily. Writing and sharing my story has been on of the most helpful things I’ve ever done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For me too! I’m glad it’s working for you. It is great to add things to your story as you evolve. I found that very helpful. Also the fact that it is possible to look back at what I wrote a year or a while ago, helps me to see and notice certain things. It’s always a process.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great post Kacha; well thought out, beautifully written, and really interesting. For me, it was helpful in re-affirming why I write, why we all write. Writing has been beneficial to me in many ways, particularly telling my story, getting some of the abuse, etc out of my head and onto ‘paper’.

    I also hope that, even in some small way, I’ve been able to encourage others to speak out, to tell their story, and to keep writing. Perhaps some of my posts have been beneficial to others too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I wholeheartedly agree with this post. Autobiographical writing is a constructive outlet for so many people, and I think somehow we all start by penning our stories down in diaries and journals, and while expanding that to a blog may require courage, I think the outcome really make the initial struggle worth it. Especially since the blogging community allows us to connect with more people who not only receive help from our stories, but also have something beautiful and possibly helpful to give in return!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with your comment! You worded it so beautifully that I can’t add anything to it.
      The connection that is made and like you said help is offered or a ‘reading eye’ at least with blogging. When you share your story it is nice to know that it ‘arrived’ somewhere, that there is someone (somewhere in the wide world) who cherishes that story and is willing to respond to it.
      It is truly beautiful.

      Like

  7. Great article! – I totally agree with everything you have just said.
    I have been feeling so much better since I started blogging. First of all, it’s a great feeling to see that there are people out there who actually take the time to read my stories and who find them interesting or helpful.
    And also, writing has helped me to get to know myself better. Before starting blogging, I did not really know what to do with my life and nowadays, I take more time to reflect on things and to think everything over and I have recently started to realize what things I truly want from life so yes….blogging has helped me a lot.
    I have always been pretty open about my thoughts and feelings but it’s just..not the same as writing them down like..it does help a lot to tell your friends about the way you feel but while writing a post, you’re just so much more focused.

    Thanks for sharing ❤

    Mark

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Writing is very different to talking, I agree. And with friends it’s also different because they know you. While when creating a post, you need to or tell the whole story or give clear context to a part of your story, which makes you indeed focused and more clear minded.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s amazing that the same regions light up in the brains of storyteller and listener during sharing! I guess that saying about being on the same wavelength isn’t so far from the truth. 😉

    I do believe very much in the power of writing your story. It doesn’t have to be everything all at once, and yes, it’s a risk to put something truly personal out there. But the process of telling unlocks the narrative inside our heads so that we might be able to discover something new in it. And if someone listens to that story and responds positively, it only gives us more strength to move toward healing.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s