The Power of Sharing Your Story
Everybody struggles. We all face adversity in some form. These are the challenges that shape us and allow us to grow. Without life’s challenges, we would never do anything. In the words of Dory in Finding Nemo when Marlon comments that he doesn’t want to let “anything happen” to his son. “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.” One way we can better face the challenges of life is to take advantage of the benefits of sharing our story.
How Sharing Impacts Mental Health
It is valuable for anyone living with mental health conditions to know that they are not alone. Sharing a story about your mental health journey can be the catalyst to recovery. Sharing your story also helps promote understanding and empathy to those without mental illness. These challenges are necessary for our personal growth and development. Sure, some face more serious challenges than others but we all have struggles.
Unfortunately, with the advent of social media, it looks a bit like… no one has struggles. It looks a lot like everyone’s life is spectacular and ours is the only struggle, completely alone and unable to share because struggles don’t belong on the social media highlight reel. There are of course ways to share your journey with others, and not just that awesome trip you took to Mexico to goes on your social media highlight reel. The Overt Foundation gives everyone the opportunity to share their story on their website.
What are the benefits of sharing?
Sharing can be a powerful and important part of the healing process (Rennick-Egglestone et al., 2019). Research has shown that the benefits of sharing one’s story can include:
- increased connectedness
- a greater sense of community
- increased personal validation and hope
- a sense of empowerment
- reduced shame
The world we live in has more people than ever before, yet many of us feel isolated. It is now possible to live life with minimal interaction. The communities we once thrived in are disappearing and we no longer know our neighbors. As part of Overt’s program, participants are encouraged to share their stories publicly. If they choose they can share anonymously. This is a key part of the healing process, not only for the participant but for the greater community. Likely, someone will read your story and feel a connection because they are experiencing something similar. All of the sudden, they aren’t the only one, they aren’t alone anymore.
The Benefits of Sharing Your Story Through Journaling
Another valuable benefit of sharing your story can come through the act of journaling. Multiple studies have shown journaling to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety (2020). Sometimes getting our thoughts out of our heads and onto paper can be incredibly healing. One study showed a significant reduction in depressive symptoms after three days of expressive writing twenty minutes a day (Krpan, et.al, 2013). Journaling gives us the opportunity to release the emotions we have been holding in and keep a more positive mindset.
We will all struggle. This is part of life, but we don’t have to do it alone.
83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress. (2020, October 12). Retrieved December 31, 2020, from https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/
Krpan, K. M., Kross, E., Berman, M. G., Deldin, P. J., Askren, M. K., & Jonides(2013). An everyday activity as a treatment for depression: The benefits of expressive writing for people diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 150, 1148-1151. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2013.05.065
Rennick-Egglestone, S., Ramsay, A., Mcgranahan, R., Llewellyn-Beardsley, J., Hui, A., Pollock, K., . . . Slade, M. (2019). The impact of mental health recovery narratives on recipients experiencing mental health problems: Qualitative analysis and change model. Plos One, 14(12). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0226201
Zachary Duty, CSW
Zach Duty is a native Texan and a graduate of Southern Utah University with a bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Recreation. He went on to complete a master’s in social work at the University of Utah with an emphasis in child welfare. As a therapist, Zach has worked in residential treatment and for the state of Utah through the Division of Juvenile Justice.