How Stories Change the Brain/The Importance of Narratives

As I wrap up the online/science of happiness component of this semester’s independent study course on acting and positive psychology, and in the warm afterglow of the IIM major proposal (it still hasn’t quite sunken in), I was so pleasantly surprised to see that narratives and storytelling were included as a large portion of the final Science of Happiness unit!

I look forward to continuing some of the happiness practices that we learned in this online course, and applying some of my understanding of happiness to more positive day-to-day life. The course has also really helped me reflect and re-shape some of my goals, as well as fueled discussions between my advisor and I about what positive inspirational works look like, and how we can work on more of them!

The video and article below, from this last week of the course, really reinforce our interest in this subject matter, and underscore the importance of stories and narratives as well as their potential for more change. I look forward to continuing this independent study and finishing up by reading and reflecting many books on creative storytelling as well as coming up with a final performance and a final reflection project! Hope you had a day filled with the things you are passionate about and that make your heart sing! ❤

Article on how stories change the brain:



I had the chance to see SUFFRAGETTE at an early screening at Brandeis, and I wanted to pass along the following!

The film opens this Friday, October 30, in Boston and it is important that we guarantee full theatres at every screening.
· It sends a powerful message of female empowerment of which we all need to be reminded and that tomorrow’s generation needs to see

· The issues it addresses are timely and relevant to our continued struggles for equality today

· In an industry (Hollywood) where females are under-represented, SUFFRAGETTE is one of the only movies whose DNA is all-female: its director is a woman, screenwriter is a woman, producers are women and lead cast are women

· If we want to see more women-focused stories, shaped by female voices, we need full theatres for SUFFRAGETTE this weekend. Not next weekend or the week after, but this weekend.
One person – You – can make a huge difference. Together, we can guarantee sellouts.

What can you do?
· Buy out a film screening. An average screening costs only $2,600 to ensure a full house (200 seats x $13/ticket). You can buy the tickets and give them to employees, non-profit groups, college students, high school students, etc. and use it as a tax write-off.

· Commit to getting 10 friends to go see the film. If buying out a theatre isn’t an option, commit to getting 10 friends to go see the film this weekend. Twenty people, each committing to get 10 people to see the film, would fill a theater.

· Forward this to friends. Ask them to do the same

Big Announcement/Update :)

Still overwhelmed by the fact that this happened today, but happy to announce that my IIM (Independent Interdisciplinary Major) of Human Development, Creativity, and Media has been approved by the Brandeis faculty committee!
I’m proud to be able to devote my time to studying how the sharing of people’s stories can inspire positive individual and societal change. This video also seems like an appropriate one to share in conjunction with my news 🙂 Thanks to everyone who’s supported my journey in declaring this major (as I’ve been talking about it incessantly)- such a personal project that links so many of my passions and hopes and dreams for the world. In case no one’s told you yet today, you and your story are important ❤

Think Dirty- Interesting Name, Great App

I follow Amanda (@organicbunny), an organic beauty blogger, on Instagram. Today in one of her posts, she mentioned the app Think Dirty (click here to download for FREE), which is described in the App store as “the easiest way to learn about the potentially toxic ingredients in your cosmetics and personal care products. It’s an independent source that allows you to compare products as you shop. Just scan the product barcode and Think Dirty will give you easy-to-understand info on the product, track dirty ingredients and shop for cleaner options”.

Normally, I try to buy products with natural, recognizable ingredients whenever possible, but it can certainly be easy to purchase beauty products (not just makeup- body wash, shampoo, lotions, etc.) after seeing an ad on TV for them and thinking that their ingredients must be super safe and healthy if they really have all of the promised benefits! Even the natural ingredients on labels are usually surrounded by other ingredients that I just assume are okay for me because when I’m shopping and need a beauty product, I don’t necessarily have the time or money to research the top quality ingredients. This app looked promising, so I downloaded it as a way to know and understand more about the products I own and so I can become a more informed shopper in the future.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 5.58.59 PM

When I made a free account to go along with the app and subscribed to e-mails, I received an informative (and scary) e-mail from Think Dirty. Here are some of the highlights.

Only 10 Chemicals are banned in US.

Canada has banned just over 600 and The European Union Health Commission has banned over 1,300 chemicals.

There is lax government regulations when it comes to cosmetics

There’s no pre-market approval requirement for cosmetics to be on sale in US and Canadian markets.

Laws do not regulate the use of words like “Natural” and “Organic” on cosmetics and personal care products.

Manufacturers are not required to disclose specific fragrance ingredients on the product label. Instead, the generic term parfum is listed, representing a mixture of potentially dozens of chemicals.

Luckily, this app can help break consumers out of their rut of buying available products that look neat. Here are some of the features I already love:

  • Barcode scanner- it’s so easy to scan products! Once you’ve scanned them, the app comes up with a “Dirty Meter,” a rating of the product, with 1 being the cleanest and 10 being the dirtiest. The explanation of the score for that product is provided and easy to access, and is based on ingredients and health impacts, including carcinogenicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and allergies and immunotoxicities.
  • If a product isn’t listed, you can quickly add it to the database by typing in some simple information, and soon it will be rated on the app. You will also receive a notification when it is rated.
  • Once you’ve scanned a product, you can add it to customized lists or to “My Bathroom Shelf”. This way, you can keep track of products you currently have.
  • The home page of the app displays the overall rating of the products you’ve added to your Bathroom Shelf list. This is a fantastic feature because you can go back and remove products from your shelf as you replace them with less dirty products.

Once you’ve gotten acquainted with the products you currently have (and find out you’re probably not too happy with their ingredients and ratings- at least that’s what happened in my case!), you can  go back to each product and go to the tab labeled “You May Also <3”. This has similar products listed that have cleaner ratings than the product you currently have (example from my bathroom shelf below). You can make shopping lists from these product suggestions, or buy them from Amazon through the app.


I’m looking forward to replacing as many of the “dirty” products that I currently own with cleaner products, so my bathroom shelf can eventually achieve a green number/status! I know this process will take a little bit of time and I don’t want to waste everything I have now, but this app makes it so much easier to compare ingredients, prices, and overall just reduces the hassle of shopping for beauty products that will be kind to your body. Think of the time you spend scanning these products and using this app as an investment in your long-term health. The Think Dirty app is better than any game- and hey, seeing your score go from red to green is kind of like getting points in a game, right? Except infinitely better for you 😛

Best wishes ❤