Storytelling has proven itself as a healer of mental health, a catalyst for mental wellness

Sudanshu Rai

It is believed that the origin of storytelling dates back to the stone-age era, when drawings were scripted on the walls of caves. With passage of time, storytelling shifted to the oral format that was passed on from generations to generations, and has now evolved into diversified forms, from oral to audio and visual to digital. But is it just the entertainment quotient that has kept the art of storytelling alive, in fact growing, even after ages? 

Certainly not, for storytelling has also proven itself as a healer of mental health, a catalyst for mental wellness. All the more so, when we talk with respect to a live storytelling experience, which continues to thrive and evolve, thanks to a few notable storytellers in India.

Before delving into the ‘How’ of it, let’s first take into account the elements that come into play when we talk about live storytelling. While the prima facie feel of the same can be sensed merely by recalling the bedtime storytelling by our mothers and grannies, in discussion here is a more professional setup for the same. Live storytelling need not be mistaken for a standup narration from a notebook, rather it is more akin to a theatre-like escapade. Special emphasis is given herein to create the ambience that is most suitable to a story being narrated. Right from blending an apt background score to meticulous voice modulations, each element plays an instrumental role in creating the perfect imagery, thereby captivating all the senses of the listeners.

Thus, when the audience concentrates on the stories with all their senses in play and attention unfazed, they become active listeners, while letting their minds float in unexplored directions seeking creative imaginations while broadening their horizons of thought. Being an engaged listener and letting the mind venture into the creative fold eventually helps in keeping one’s brain fit and healthy. Lest we forget, there are multiple other benefits of being the master of strong imagination, such as experts suggesting that those with better imagination handle stress more diligently and efficiently. This is in fact a key factor behind corporate entities and various organizations inviting storytellers to bring the imagination of their workforce.

Stories narrated in such environs have the ability to trigger our moods positively, as for the time period, we remain transported to an imaginary world, which isn’t just free of everyday troubles, but also increases positive emotions to often impact our self image and outlook. Furthermore, stories are literatures, which has traditionally been synonymous with shaping attitude of not only individuals but communities as whole.

Also, it is nothing but a myth that storytelling is an art that entertains only the little and young ones. On the contrary, storytelling is one such artistry that caters to people across diverse age groups from different walks of life – students to corporate professionals. If we take into account our own experience, the major chunk of audience today hails between the age group of 13-40, and have been gaining immensely from the same. Recalling one of the recent experiences, one of the listeners – a student battling anxiety – shared that whenever he was troubled with the symptoms, listening to our stories helped him regain his calm while minimising the anxiousness.

It is not for nothing that storytelling, in its endless forms, has become a core element of the movement around mental health and wellness. If you want to try it yet again, we recommend you listen to one of your favourite tales before calling it a night!