The ultimate consolatory message combines a touch of emotion with humour, according to Dr. Madelijn Strick, Senior lecturer social psychology at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

“However, these stories are hard to come by and it is difficult to track them down. But the search is worthwhile because they make us laugh and at the same time give hope and new energy in a difficult time”, she says.

Among the examples Strick found, was Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s mention during a press conference of the Easter Bunny as an essential profession and “allowing it to provide services during the lockdown”. Another example: two Italian balconies connected through a make-shift tabletop to enable two neighbours, each on her own balcony, to dine together at an appropriate distance.

Strick set out to investigate the comforting effects of different types of corona stories on residents of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. She identified two types of uplifting messages that people shared: corona jokes and moving stories. The corona jokes mostly revolved around domestic discomforts and minor irritations to do with hand washing, hoarding, loneliness and boredom during quarantine. The moving stories told of nature recovering, people helping each other or people lining the streets to applaud healthcare staff. “These stories are moving because they show moral beauty. They give us hope and encourage us to get the best out of ourselves,” Strick says.

Exchanging jokes and uplifting stories about corona seems like a simple pastime, but according to Strick, it’s desperately needed in times of crisis: “We must continue to do this in order to stay mentally balanced.”

Source: de Volkskrant, column by Madelijn Strick on 25/8/’20

© Sitara Morgenster

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