As coronavirus cases rose and travel restrictions tightened last December, Deborah Goldstein and her 85-year-old mother decided to travel to the wilderness of Scotland, away from the gloomy TV news and political rhetoric. There they both meet an animal-loving teenager, his ruthless sleeping mother and 12 magical imaginary dwarves. Surprisingly, he enjoyed this journey from his flat in Manhattan.
In fact, Deborah is associated with the Online Storytelling Circle (storytelling group). In this group every other Thursday, dozens of people share stories online. The pandemic has increased stress and loneliness. So the New York Society for Ethical Culture took this initiative. Experts believe that listening to stories and sharing things improves mental health. It is also effective in reducing anxiety and loneliness. Deborah of the ‘Ethical Culture’ group says, ‘My anxiety is decreasing with the stories.’
We all connect through Zoom, says Daniel Weinshaker, head of the Denver-based Story Center. Camera is optional. There are 5 to 25 people in a circle. Usually these people share fictional stories and sometimes real experiences. Especially those associated with change. This can help people deal with unexpected changes in life. For example, recently a nurse told the story of a bird unable to fly, which she rescued from outside the window of the house.
Through this she told that she used to take care of mothers and newborns in the same way. But the pandemic changed everything. Vinashenkar says, ‘Corona has given people deep sorrow and uncertainty. It is our endeavor that instead of these issues, the participant should share something of childhood or an anecdote related to grandmother and grandmother. Or through a fictional character, tell what is the turmoil in life, from which it needs to be brought out.
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Veenshankar explains, “We do not insist that the stories have a happy ending. We encourage people to be honest so that they can accept reality. It has been proven in several studies that engaging in storytelling has helped people with dementia, breast cancer and amnesia have a better quality of life, less social isolation, and better performance. According to Veenashenkar, stories make up stories. When you listen to others or keep your point, you understand yourself better.