Are Stories the Secret to Happiness?

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I believe that Story can be a powerful tool in our families, businesses, schools and communities - but can stories also make us happier? Researcher Matt Killingsworth recently conducted a happiness study through an app and website called trackyourhappiness.org.  The app gathered over 650,000 reports from people all over the world as it asked three questions at random times: 1. How feel you right now? 2. What are you doing? and 3. Are you thinking about something other than what you're doing? a) no b) yes, something pleasant c) yes, something unpleasant d) yes, something neutral. 

The study revealed that people who were focused on the present moment were significantly happier than those who were "mind wandering." This proved true even for people stuck in traffic! The study also revealed that we spend 47% of our lives mind wandering, most of the time on unpleasant thoughts. We are churning our lives away with worries, anxieties and regrets, but when we simply focus on the present, it's like giving our overstressed brain a rest and this simple act increases happiness. 

This got me thinking about story. It's a well documented fact that story listeners often enter what is called the story trance - a qualitatively different state of consciousness. Slack-jaw, intent eyes and slow breath all indicate someone who is being present and immersed in story. As we relax and focus, our hearts and minds become open to the powerful message of the story and maybe to happiness as well.

So pull up a chair, turn off the regrets of the past and the fears of the future, take a deep breath and be present with story - listen, read, write or watch. You'll learn, you'll laugh, you'll energize new ideas... and perhaps you just might find a little happiness too. 

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*Repurposed from the 2013 Welcome Message at the Timpanogos Storytelling Conference.