How to take control of your self-narrative for a better, happier life

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EVERYONE knows what makes a good story. Our hero starts their journey as a flawed but relatable being with a personal goal. In scene after scene, they face challenges and setbacks that push them down new paths. By the end of the tale, they have prevailed and become a better person in the process. Just think of Jane Eyre, Luke Skywalker or Gilgamesh.

We love these plots in the novels we read, the films we watch and the video games we play. But the principles of a good story offer much more than entertainment. Recent research shows that the narratives we tell ourselves about our lives can powerfully shape our resilience to stress. People who generate tales of struggle and redemption from their own lives appear to have much better mental health. You could describe this as the flawed hero effect.

Better yet, psychologists have found that spinning our memories into a well-told life narrative, and viewing our future as an extension of this story, can help us achieve our aspirations for self-improvement. And if you want to turn over a new leaf, it helps to choose a significant date that signals the start of a new “chapter”. Contrary to popular scepticism, resolutions made on 1 January are more effective for this reason. So, whether your goal is saving money, studying for exams, quitting smoking or getting fit, there is no better time to start. You just need to know how to harness the power of self-narrative to boost your willpower, improve your well-being and create a better you.

The original protagonist in the burgeoning field of narrative psychology …

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