Vivid Stories increase happiness

[First published on LinkedIn Thought Leaders on 4 October]

“I found myself sitting in the cockpit of a small aircraft – it smelt like on old MG, my hair would have been blowing in the wind, as I belted down the runway except I had on a buggles hat with goggles. I was nervous and excited. The airplane, which was older than me, was shaking and rattling… until finally it lifted off the earth and calm prevailed. As it rose to 7000 feet the pilot sitting in the open-air cockpit behind me asked “would you like to look around?” I said “Yes love to!” At that point he tipped the plane over and there was nothing between me and the earth but my seven point harness and my 10 white knuckles gripping on for dear life…..”

Or

I went for a flight in a bi-plane, it was really exciting.

One of the keys to happiness is being able to relive and retell tales of experience. The power of language and story telling are integral to the ‘doubling’ of the joy experienced. Another words when we share a vivid story of an experience we have – we get all the benefit and more of that experience again.

Slatcher & Pennebaker, 2006 published an article in Psychological Science called “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Words. The Social Effects of Expressive Writing”:

Writing about emotional experiences is associated with a host of positive outcomes.

However the words we choose greatly impact our experience of reality. In another research paper by Adam A Augustine,  Matthias R. Mehl & Randy J. Larsen called A Positivity Bias in Written and Spoken English:

The human tendency to use positive words (“adorable”) more often than negative words (“dreadful”) is called the linguistic positivity bias…… People, in general, and some people more than others, tend to talk about the brighter side of life.

Marketers have known for years to talk in positive language to attract potential customers… but at our very core the words we choose to use can either ‘add’ or ‘detract’ from our experience of life.

As our teenagers text in a language that I don’t understand… and as Twitter teaches us to express our deepest thoughts in 140 character,. I say ‘vote one’ for sharing a vivid story.

At the very beginning of our education, there were wonderful stories… (not essays)… Vivid stories of adventure, daring, challenge and love…

In our haste are we forgetting how to tell a story, how to use positive language and as a result – doing ourselves a disservice when it comes to happiness?

We started a group called Five Thanks a Day – as part of a game to improve happiness on the planet. It is simple – when you say thank you – you feel great and so does the recipient… in fact happiness is infectious. In addition however, you use vivid, powerful language to authentically thank someone – you ‘double down’ on the effectiveness of it – you get double the happiness ‘rush’ – and when you write a thank you note – that is even better.

Join us in the Group Five Thanks a Day… and think about the words you choose – Are they positive and vivid?

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Oh Naomi, You’ve done it again… A great post close to my heart and sharing our passion for storytelling. Thanks, as always for your positivity.
    Happy Days, Di

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