We are talking about exactly how and why to tell your wellness story with the storyteller and meaning-maker expert Ali Edwards.
We’ll tell you exactly what that means, why you’d want to tell your wellness story, and then how to do it.
How (and Why) to Tell Your Wellness Story with Ali Edwards
Ali and I have also partnered together to create the very first Wellness Story course, which I believe has the opportunity to change your relationship with wellness, the way that you see yourself, and the way that you tell your story.
It’s research-based and incredibly meaningful, combining Ali’s expertise in story telling and meaning-making and Robyn’s expertise in research and behavior change into a package in a way that’s never really been done before.
On Ali’s approach to storytelling:
Ali tells stories through documentation by looking around in her everyday life, paying attention to the stories that she’s living in, and the stories happening around her and writing those things down.
It’s the way she makes sense of her life, the way she celebrates, asks questions, and experiences everyday life.
For Ali, documentation is a combination of words and photos: writing things down and taking pictures.
Digital technology allows her to take pictures of things she thinks are beautiful, things that she is thankful for, things that she wants to remember.
Ali loves documentary-style journalism– capturing what is real, happening right in front of you.
Those are the pictures she likes to take and the kind of stories she likes to write down.
Once Ali became a mom, she started this process of documenting.
Initially, she knew she wanted to have some sort of keepsake, and she ended up finding modern scrapbooking.
The goal isn’t to have a scrapbook at the end; documenting is part of the process, but it’s more about meaning-making.
There is a magic that happens when you learn to document; the act of documenting causes awareness, and awareness leads to more documenting and meaning.
This idea of documenting is very tactical– this is something you can take action on and do to bring awareness to your life.
It’s really just about paying attention.
“Paying attention leads to understanding, and that understanding can lead you to pay attention at deeper levels.”
What is a story I can tell that is real in my life right now?
“It’s easy to not pay attention.”
Documentation provides an opportunity for the practice of paying attention, the practice of looking for stories, the practice of taking photos to capture a point in time.
On documenting what is real:
Sometimes, we want to put on a happy face and project perfection.
But Ali isn’t interested in those kinds of stories; she’s interested in the real stories.
In an earlier episode, Robyn and Dr. Rick Hanson discussed this idea of matching what’s going on in your head with what’s actually real because they can actually be very different from each other.
Ali is really working on this piece on bringing those together, and without judgment.
It’s easy to go through your life and have, for example, your kid’s mess to be a source of frustration, but also, this is what life is right now.
“Having systems for yourself to notice without judgment is so powerful.”
One of the things Ali documents is gratitude, which often allows her to turn around something that might be negative.
For example, the mess in her kids’ room is a sign of life, a sign of two 10-year old girls who share a room, a sign of the things they’re interested in.
You can find all these ways to find gratitude and other ways to interpret what’s going on without necessarily glossing over what’s happening.
Ali’s son’s diagnosis of Autism inspired the way she tells stories; so much of her approach with him has been taking every opportunity possible to celebrate him and the person he is, the things he loves, and the things he enjoys.
The process allowed her to see things differently.
On Wellness Story:
Robyn and Ali collaborated to create Wellness Story, which has a lot to do with this idea of tracking.
We tend to break everything down into something we can count, but, especially with wellness, it doesn’t give us the full picture.
When you track certain things, it’s at the cost of everything else.
For example, with a fitness tracker, you get more “points” for running than you do for pilates or yoga because of how the tracker itself works.
We’ve been able to see in the research that it’s shaping people’s behavior towards certain things because they get credit for it, and not toward other things that they don’t get points for, including rest.
If tracking isn’t the only way to do this, what’s a different way that would still serve the purpose?
We, as humans, have a need to feel progress and growth.
But sometimes it’s good to ask, what am I keeping track of?
Adding documentation to whatever you’re tracking will only deepen your level of understanding your own story and hopefully give you more information to help you make more informed choices the next time you want to track something.
The idea of giving you a clearer, whole picture is where the value comes in.
How documenting has helped Ali with her own wellness:
On one hand, documenting helps Ali just keep track of her story.
She has a wellness Instagram account that lets her see and reflect on her progress as well as answer and ask new, or better, questions.
It has also given her a home for being able to share these stories, talk about the things that she’s struggling with and the things she learns about herself.
For example, if she was just keeping track of whether she did or did not complete a yoga practice, she would not have the same level of understanding about why it works for her sometimes but not others.
“How you feel starts with awareness and some kind of documentation”
And it doesn’t have to be scrapbooking.
For Robyn, this documentation process is more of a quick photo and a note on her phone, but it has the same purpose of drawing her attention to what’s real, where she is, and the stories she’s telling.
What are the stories I’m telling myself and are those the stories I want to tell?
The workshop will have documentation with specific prompts for you to fill in.
On purpose, Ali and Robyn are not doing these in advance because they want to do them alongside all of you so it’s authentic and real.
On owning your own story:
One thing that happens all the time is comparison.
It’s an automatic thought that people have, that “my life doesn’t look like your life, so my life must be less than your life.”
So Ali talks about this idea of owning your own story, whatever that looks like right now.
Celebrate your own story, encourage yourself in any way possible.
It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another to practice it, and as you practice it, it becomes more routine for you and the comparisons become less powerful.
You come back to “how does this make me feel?” versus “how does this compare to someone else?”.
It’s about honing in on what’s happening for you and how you feel about it.
Are there different questions you can ask that will get you to better solutions for you that may be totally different compared to your neighbor?
Mindset shifts that Ali is experiencing right now:
For Ali, there’s always a line between being tired and needing to rest or putting her head down and getting the work done.
What do you need to do to make it happen?
If you know something will make your body feel good: it’s not just a should, it’s an actual good.
Starting can be hard, and it might not feel good at all when you’re starting.
First, acknowledge the season that you’re in: it might not be the right time to start.
It doesn’t mean to put it off forever, but if you need a few more days, then take those days.
Second, if you have a behavioral cue in your space (like a yoga mat in your office) you’re more likely to take that action.
It’s taking those baby steps to support that.
Taking baby steps allows a little momentum to build and removes some of the barriers for the day you decide to do it.
What to expect from the course:
This is a four-week, four-lessons workshop.
Lesson one sets the stage for where you’re at right now and the stories you’re telling yourself now.
There are printables that can be printed and put in notebooks: the activities are writing with optional photography.
Lessons two and three are focused on meals and movement, each with five prompts to complete over the course of the week that are documenting-based.
It’s not artistic or creativity-based, it’s about finding these things in your life and reflecting on how you’re feeling about it.
And then there will be a wrap-up to see what it’s like to document pieces of your wellness story right now, and how it impacts the choices you make going forward.
There’s a video with each of the lessons, and there’s a community of people, along with Robyn and Ali, who will all be doing this with you.
Register for the course on www.aliedwards.com/shop/classes/wellness-story
On what it really means to be healthy:
“Loving myself enough to take care of myself”.
Ali Edwards’ passion resides in that very special place where the stories and images of life intersect.
Designer, blogger, workshop instructor, and author of four books about memory keeping, Ali is well known for authentically capturing everyday life with photos and words and creating memory keeping projects from those moments that pass by in an instant.
Guided by simple principles such as not making things more complicated than they need to be, focusing on the things that matter most and embracing imperfection, Ali Edwards is proud to be a work in progress.
She believes without a doubt that there’s no right or wrong way to do all this, that the real stories are worth telling, and there’s a whole lot of celebrating to do even in the midst of the challenging pieces of life.
Since 2004, Ali Edwards blog, workshops and memory keeping projects have inspired tens of thousands of people to share their own stories and enrich their own lives through the process.
Ali lives in Eugene, Oregon with her two children and their cat George Washington.
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