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PodcastPersonal Narratives

Personal Narratives

Today, Sam talks about how recounting our life stories is a great practice for building a better understanding of how far we've come.

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Better mental health starts with Headspace

(gentle music) Headspace Studio. (gentle music) Hi, I'm Sam. Welcome to Radio Headspace and to Thursday. If you've listened to my past episodes, you know that I love research, especially about the human brain. And I was recently pouring over some research that attested to the importance of our personal narrative as a measure of our mental health. Now, our personal narrative reflects how we tell the story of our lives, the meaningful moments and big transitions that we've struggled with and grown from. When our personal narrative is cohesive, it reflects that we've thought deeply about our life experiences and have made sense of it all. When our narrative is incohesive, it reflects our blind spots, unexplored and unprocessed moments and memories in our lives that may feel too daunting to confront. The fact that a cohesive narrative reflects mental health makes total sense. It's a reflection of how much time and energy we've devoted to knowing and understanding ourselves, making sense of experiences and challenges, and getting clear on how we've grown from them. In my mindfulness teacher training at UCLA, we dedicated a good deal of time to a practice called wayward seeking mind. It sounds mysterious, but in essence, it involves giving each person our full attention while they describe their life story, giving their personal narrative uninterrupted to whatever extent they want to. After someone shares their story, we can ask questions about what we've heard, and that helps the person to reflect on their personal narrative. Sharing our story and being witnessed with such deep attention helps us to understand ourselves better. I often say that we need each other's curiosity to get to know ourselves fully. We can observe our own patterns, thoughts, and emotions, but there will still be things we miss without the feedback that others provide. As we look at our own experiences with curiosity, we allow challenges and setbacks to be medicinal. And by that, I mean we can see and reflect on what we learned from those challenges or how we were able to cope with them. Our personal narrative helps us to see where we've had the opportunity to grow and change, and confronting our stories and thinking about why we did certain things can help us heal from the pain of the experience. Because if you know why something happened, it's easier to identify how to find ways to resolve it instead of blindly trying to get closure. And of course, if you feel that you need a professional to guide you through these emotions, please reach out to a therapist. If you want to try an exercise to create a personal narrative, you can take time to share your life stories with others. Just like my training, you can make time with someone you trust, whether it's a partner or a friend, and share your story with them and then let them ask you questions about your story so that you can reflect. Afterwards, have...


Duration5 min

About your teachers

  • A former Buddhist monk, Andy has guided people in meditation and mindfulness for 20 years. In his mission to make these practices accessible to all, he co-created the Headspace app in 2010.

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  • Eve is a mindfulness teacher, overseeing Headspace’s meditation curriculum. She is passionate about sharing meditation to help others feel less stressed and experience more compassion in their lives.

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  • As a meditation teacher, Dora encourages others to live, breathe, and be with the fullness of their experiences. She loves meditation’s power to create community and bring clarity to people’s minds.

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  • Kessonga has been an acupuncturists, therapist, and meditation teacher, working to bring mindfulness to the diverse populations of the world.

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  • Rosie Acosta has studied yoga and mindfulness for more than 20 years and taught for over a decade. Rosie’s mission is to help others overcome adversity and experience radical love.

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