How Thinking About Your Ancestors Can Help You Thrive

The Science of Happiness

Dec 21 2023 • 19 mins

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We explore how contemplating our heritage can make us feel more belonging, gratitude, and confidence in what we're capable of achieving.

Link to episode transcript: https://tinyurl.com/5djerhbj

Episode summary:

Oral historian Mi'Jan Celie Tho-Biaz knows the profound impact the past can have on the present. For our show, Mi’Jan tried a lab-tested writing practice that took the historical facts she knew about her own family further – by way of her imagination. She journaled about her great-great grandmother Emma, the last enslaved person in her family, and her late father, Njoroge , imagining what they might say to her today.We also hear from psychologist  Susan Moore about how learning about your ancestors can help you feel a sense of self-knowledge, gratitude and belonging.

Practice:

  1. Imagine an ancestor in your family lineage. It can be someone you have known or someone from centuries ago.

  2. Spend the next 5-15 minutes writing about them. If you don’t know the details, imagine how their life would have been. Write down anything that comes to mind such as their way of life, their profession or what they looked like.

  3. Next imagine what they would tell you if they were alive today. What specific insights, advice or feedback would they give you? Write down your reflections.

Today’s guests:

Mi'Jan Celie Tho-Biaz is an artist, documentarian and oral historian.

Learn more about Mi’Jan Celie Tho-Biaz’s work: http://tinyurl.com/5e8t9ha7

Follow Mi’Jan on Instagram: http://tinyurl.com/mr3yp3kz

Susan Moore is a psychology professor at the Swinburne University of Technology.

Follow Susan on Twitter:http://tinyurl.com/mr3vsr2k

Resources from The Greater Good Science Center:

How Teens Today Are Different from Past Generations: http://tinyurl.com/y5ffwavr

Don’t Be So Quick to Stereotype Generations: http://tinyurl.com/mrxx7xfj

How Collective Trauma Can Hurt the Next Generation: http://tinyurl.com/2vunsm2z

Find Purpose by Connecting Across Generations: http://tinyurl.com/h4yyjesh

More Resources on Connecting with Ancestors:

NPR- 8 listeners share the powerful ways they keep in touch with their ancestors: http://tinyurl.com/48kjmenk

Harvard - How Family History Can Inspire Accountable Reparations and Foster Ancestral Healing: http://tinyurl.com/ta24x773

TED - How to be a good ancestor: http://tinyurl.com/54zvkzsv

How do you connect with your family history? Email us at happinesspod@berkeley.edu or use the hashtag #happinesspod.

Help us share The Science of Happiness!

Rate us on Spotify and share this link with someone who might like the show: http://tinyurl.com/yv69erdh

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