How to Stop Your Stories From Running Your Life

Research shows us that we not only have the capacity to pay attention to and stop the chatter of our stories, but we can also reduce our stress, rewire our brains, and reinvent our relationships by responding to them differently.

The stories we tell, particularly the ones we’re not aware of, can profoundly shape who we are, and the decisions that we make. Recognizing our stories and how they influence how we relate to others is a hallmark of becoming self-aware, and a cornerstone of mindfulness. But it can be difficult to discriminate ourselves from our stories unless we are conscious of them and understand their origins.

We are all natural storytellers—It’s how we organize our internal worlds. We spend a great proportion of our time encoding information into matrices of meaning that we use to interpret and predict social events, relationship experiences, and outcomes. Even now you are probably mentally describing your reaction to the last sentence. Stories have been used for millennia by indigenous peoples to convey everything from hunting wisdom to navigation, to passing on values and traditions. They are as central to our identities as the names that we have been given.

Next time you find yourself sitting in traffic, riding a subway or bus, or waiting in line stop for a moment and notice what is happening in your mind. Chances are you’ll find yourself knee deep in a story. It may…