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The Happiness Track: Navigating Your Narratives

<em>Edit Article</em> The Happiness Track: Navigating Your Narratives

Photo Credit: Thinkstock/m-gucci

We swim in an increasingly turbulent sea of narratives: the ones we tell ourselves, the ones we tell others, and the ones we choose to watch on Netflix—and read in books, listen to on podcasts, and follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Research suggests these stories have powerful impacts on our well-being. Some forms of narrative are deeply nourishing. A study at the New School for Social Research found that reading literary fiction especially (as opposed to best-selling thrillers or romances) helps people develop skills they need in social relationships, like the ability to see from another person’s perspective. In particular, participants who read literary fiction were better able to read emotions in other people’s eyes—a critical skill for determining the state of mind of another person. The researchers believe that the key ingredient in literary fiction is that it improves your creative and intellectual skills as you come to understand the characters in a novel. The ability to understand that another person has his or her own thoughts and feelings is something psycholo …

Emma Seppala, is the author of The Happiness Track (being published January 26th) and Science Director at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research at Stanford Medical School.

Emma Seppälä, PhD, is author of The Happiness Track, founder of, and Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

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