The Science Behind The Wildling

When Mason first showed up at The Wildling workshop, he was struggling socially. He was depressed, and had even switched schools. Mason was hesitant as the workshop started, but eventually grew comfortable in his group. In the end, he volunteered to start “Story Jams” by sharing his mental health journey through anxiety and depression. 

Afterwards, his mother noticed a change: “Mason’s Wildling experience was a huge success and allowed him an outlet during a very difficult time in his life,” she wrote, “It was a milestone for him. I even remember another kid approaching Mason and thanking him for sharing his story.”

Mason’s experience is common in The Wildling workshops, where young people are given the tools to turn their experiences into meaningful stories. Their cases speak to a growing awareness of relationship between emotional well-being and the ability to construct “coherent” narratives about one’s life.  Among the benefits of being able to construct a personal story are:

  1. Identity development: Researcher Robyn Fivush argues that, “autobiography is a critical developmental skill; narrating our personal past connects us to ourselves, our families, our communities, and our cultures.”

  2. Physiological well-being: One study found that a 30-minute storytelling session with hospitalized children lead to “an increase in oxytocin, a reduction in cortisol and pain, and positive emotional shifts during a free-association task.”

  3. Language skills: A study of oral storytelling among university students found that “Storytelling is effective in enhancing communicative skills,” and that, “students demonstrated progress with each storytelling in specific language skills.”

  4. Mental health: During the COVID-19 pandemic, a study of psychology students found that those who had composed more coherent personal narratives prior to the pandemic experienced less stress and higher emotional well-being during it.


Countless young people have come into The Wilding facing similar challenges to Mason, and have left with new skills, new stories, and a new sense of who they are, and who they can be.