This Saturday I had the pleasure of storytelling alongside Vanessa Woolf Hoyle at Kensal Green Cemetery as part of London Month of the Dead. The cemetery is packed full of lives and stories, most reduced to faded names and numbers on lopsided headstones in the long grass. There are very few other places where you can be so profoundly reminded to live your life as fully and as best you can. A beautiful reminder that money, and possessions, and status don’t matter in the end, but what matters is love, and “a life lived fully, with a fierce heart”
I recently wrote a piece for Action for Happiness about the importance of storytelling and how it relates to happiness and the practise of kindness. You can read it here:
However today I have been thinking about the story we tell about ourselves, and how that affects our mental health. Today is World Mental Health Day so it seemed like a good day to think about it. I wanted to write a few words about that.
It is worth noticing what this is, the story you tell about yourself. So many of us talk to ourselves in a much harsher way than we would talk to friends, or even people we don’t like. We tell ourselves we are stupid, a failure, too much of this, not enough of that. We bully ourselves.
If you do that, set about today to change that. Become a better friend to yourself.
Take today as an opportunity to tell the story of yourself so far. You could write it down or say it out loud; you could do it alone or play it as a game with a close friend.
Tell the story of you focusing on the positives. It won’t have an end yet of course, because it’s not over. But tell the story so far, include the triumphs, the fun, the joy, especially if you find that you usually notice your failures, your troubles, and your hardships. Take today to write down the things you are grateful for. Take note of the things you have achieved, however seemingly small (for example one of mine is I can make excellent brownies, amongst other things!). Talk or write about what has made you happiest in your story so far. Tell about whom you love and who loves you. Recall the last time you laughed helplessly, the last time you got lost in a book or a film or a story.
Tell about all the things you find beautiful. Your favourite place. Your best friend. The food you love to eat. What you love most about the world. It’s good practise for improving the quality of your internal monologue. Being kinder to ourselves makes us more resilient to the ups and downs of our lives. Being kinder to yourself will make you happier and stronger. Telling yourself a different, more positive story about your life, a story that focuses on the good things, will improve your mental health enormously.You deserve it.
I’ve written more about being kind to yourself in my new book “The Little Book of Kindness” available here