Do you remember when you met your spouse? How much did you pay for your first house? What was your experience like when you went to school or started your first job? Perhaps these things seem ordinary to you. But what if you were asking your parents or grandparents these questions? Would their stories seem uninteresting? Most likely not! Many of us wish we knew more about our family history and family experiences. Life story is an account of the series of events that make up your life and define who you are. This account starts at birth and continues throughout life. But it’s an account that very few of us document over time. No one is too young or too old to start writing down their life story. But the sooner you start, the more accurate or detailed your stories will be. Life story can be captured many ways —journaling, photographs, voice recordings and formal life story programs. Recording and sharing life story is important because it helps explain to you and to others who you are, where you’ve been, how you got there, where you are now and even where and what you will be doing in the future. Writing and sharing life story also promotes an active brain, quality relationships, mental healthiness and legacy building.
Mental healthiness refers to how we think, feel and act as we cope with life. It helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. To be mentally healthy, means that you have the balance, stability and focus to enjoy life, achieve goals, and maintain a healthy self-esteem. Recalling, sharing and documenting life story and health history is one way to promote mental healthiness. Life story helps you understand your purpose, including your behaviors, decisions, plans, and dreams. Sharing your story promotes social activity and self-esteem through interpersonal communication and connections. Documenting life events and feelings are associated with reduced stress, feeling better and stronger immune systems.
Regardless of age, the brain is an organ that thinks and grows by interacting with the world. But the brain is like a muscle — if you “don’t use it, you lose it.” This means that the health and function of the brain can improve with proper brain exercise. It is easy and fun to maintain an active brain. Mental exercise includes: reading and writing, learning new things, and social, leisure, and physical activity. Documenting and recording life story and health history is also a way to exercise your brain. Sharing life story and health history with a friend or family member, helps strengthen relationships and social ties. Social connections are also linked to brain health.
Recording and preserving your life story helps you create a legacy that can be passed on to future generations. Your legacy, in the form of a story, can preserve family history and cultural heritage by keeping stories and traditions alive. As a link between the present and past, your life story creates a sense of continuity. Your story also allows you to attain a limited form of immortality and offers personal contributions to the future. Health history, an important piece to your life story, acts as a biological legacy. If you document and share information with family and health care providers, you and future family members may decrease the risks of developing particular conditions.
If you want to learn more about “Life Story,” you are invited to attend a program on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at the Harlan County Extension Depot. Call 573-4464 to register. Also, following this program, at noon, is a short “Diabetes Cooking Class.” Please call for more information.
Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.