By: Terita Heath-Wlaz May 28, 2016 Follow Terita at @teritaheathwlaz
Recent research suggests that using Facebook can make us feel gloomy and dissatisfied with our lives. Maybe we’re missing our grown kids, or comparing ourselves to a wildly successful old friend. Whatever the cause, the news is a bummer.
But let’s be honest: we like Facebook, and quitting isn’t going to happen, right? Instead, we can harness the power of gratitude and storytelling to improve the way we feel about life, both on Facebook and in the “real world.”
How Does This Work?
The stories we tell ourselves about our own lives, together forming our so-called “narrative identity,” have a strong impact on our physical and mental health.
One study found that college students at risk for depression boosted their mood by writing expressively each day. Another found that patients’ high blood pressure improved when they listened to and internalized other patients’ success stories. When we focus on positive narratives, our bodies and brains follow along.
You can reap the benefits of storytelling by writing in a private journal, but if you already use social media, try designating Facebook as a place to notice and record the wonderful things in your life.
Make Facebook A Place for Gratitude
Gratitude may be among the most transformative positive emotion you can practice through storytelling. Linked to greater happiness, optimism, and even better fitness habits, expressing gratitude can be as simple as noticing the beauty of the changing seasons, or appreciating a good conversation and a cup of tea with a friend.
Try reflecting once a week (or once a day!) about something that inspires feelings of thankfulness in you. Once you have recorded several observations, read over them and notice how this way of storytelling shapes your own narrative identity.
What Does it Look Like?
Expressions of gratitude and moments of positive noticing can be great or small. Check out a few real Facebook posts from users who nailed the sentiment, shared here with permission:
“So grateful for the awesome village I’m surrounded by. It’s not easy raising a kid away from my entire family. You all make it not only possible, but also fulfilling.”
“Mary’s husband is a fisherman who brought back the lobster and fish for us. Mary’s friend, Aloya, cooked it all. Look at that beautiful smile. Both Debra and I are humbled by the gentle, loving people we’ve met in Belize.”
“Tait loves life! He says every night at bedtime: “when I wake up in the mornin I can play again! And read books!””
“I Love this!! Inky the octopus escapes from aquarium—by crawling OUT of his tank, across and a floor, and through a drain pipe to the sea.”
Ready to try your own? Even if you’re not feeling rosy this instant, now is a great time to get started. Look around you for beauty, and inside yourself, and then answer that pressing question at the top of the page: “What’s on your mind?”