How cat videos boost your mental health
If you’ve ever spent time watching videos of Grumpy Cat or Lil’ Bub online, you may have gotten more out of the experience than a few giggles. Watching cat videos increases energy, while decreasing anxiety and other negative emotions, according to a recent study conducted at Indiana University.
Nearly 7,000 people were surveyed about watching cat videos and the impact of the videos on their mood. Overall, study participants felt less anxious, sad and annoyed after watching the videos. They also reported feeling more energetic and positive. Many respondents said they often viewed these types of videos while at work or studying.
“Prolonged focus can fatigue your brain, just as prolonged exertion can tire out your muscles,” says Stephanie Launer, behavioral health extern at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “Taking a short break periodically to watch an entertaining video or two is a good way to give your brain a rest and improve focus and productivity over longer periods of time. It is, however, important to set time limits to ensure break activities don’t turn into procrastination.”
The results suggest that further research could be done to look into whether online cat videos could be a low-cost form of pet therapy, says Jessica Gall Myrick, an assistant professor at Indiana University and researcher for this study.
“I wholeheartedly agree with the call for additional research into whether watching online cat videos can produce stress-relieving benefits,” says Launer, who is writing her doctoral dissertation on animal-assisted therapy. “Our understanding of how and why animal-assisted interventions are effective is still evolving, which means there are limitless possibilities for new applications to both virtual and actual media.”
In addition, studies have shown that interacting with animals can decrease anxiety, stress, depression and fear. This is one reason why pet therapy programs have become increasingly popular in hospitals, nursing homes and other areas where people are undergoing stress.
“This study is a great launching pad to learning more about creative ways to manage stress by increasing contact with animals, either physically or virtually,” Launer says.
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