January 2, 2014

How to rewrite your way to happiness

According to psychologist Tim Wilson, a professor at the University of Virginia, you can edit your memories in order to provide a happier interpretation of events. He calls the process "story-editing" and according to Wilson, small tweaks can lead to changes in behavior and the direction of our lives.

He uses this intervention to help people get through troubling times and to overcome obstacles. With Wilson's process, in order to edit your story, you have to write about it. He suggests taking an event and writing about it for 15 minutes every day for four days. Over this time, you'll begin to make sense of what's troubling you and while some will gain acceptance, many will find solutions.

Wilson says that similar interventions have been used to help relieve mental anguish, improve health and increase attendance at work. He's even used them to help encourage students to stay in school.

I think the process sounds much like why we enjoy telling stories of our childhood, especially at the holidays when families gather together to reminisce. Stories about escapades that were questionable at the time are suddenly funny and over years, the characters become much more colorful as it is repeatedly told and embellished.

However, telling the story does more than provide a laugh. It invites others into the social circle and helps them to fit in. And that is why the constant reinterpretation of life's events lead us to a happier life. By engaging others with our history, we learn how we arrived where we are today and make choices for where we are going tomorrow.

Find out how you can edit your way to a happier life with "All Things Considered: Editing Your Life's Stories Can Create Happier Endings" from NPR.

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