When you are having a rough day, can’t seem to get out of your head or feel the weight of the world pressing on your shoulders, there are a lot of stress relief tactics available for you to try. Some of these might involve yoga and mindfulness, taking a bath, self-care or exercise.
But did you know that science also backs a much easier, simpler method of stress relief? Researchers have actually found that scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook feed might help boost your mood, as long as you’re looking at the right content.
While social media has been linked to a lot of negative feelings, including the fear of missing out (FOMO), lower self-esteem, anxiety and, in some cases, even social isolation, the right type of content can actually provide some healthy benefits for our brains and bodies in the form of stress relief. As it turns out, watching adorable animal videos might be the key to relieving minor periods of stress.
The link between animal videos and stress
You might be thinking, “Obviously. Animal videos are enough to make anyone smile,” and you’d be right. After all, who can resist watching cute puppies and kitties stumble all over the house, or adorable ducklings waddle down the road? Animals’ innocence and excitement, combined with the happiness factor we get from seeing cute, fuzzy things, is enough to give us pause and help us forget about our stress for a moment (or longer, if you fall down the animal video rabbit hole!).
However, there’s also more to it than that. As noted in this article by YouTube to MP3 Shark, scientific studies have shown that the brain’s chemistry and the presence of stress hormones are actually altered through the viewing of positive, uplifting videos like animal videos. Watching these video clips can significantly reduce cortisol, one of the body’s major stress hormones, along with adrenaline levels; thus, the feelings of stress are relieved. One study discovered that watching just 30 minutes of cute animal videos could lower cortisol levels by 67 percent and adrenaline by 35 percent!
But why does this happen? Numerous studies indicate that video media is one of the most influential types of media when it comes to our mood—better than music or other mood-boosting strategies. Therefore, videos of happy things we enjoy or have a positive reaction to (like adorable bunnies and kittens making a floof pile on the couch!) can have a major impact on our moods.
In addition to good mood, animal video watching has also been found to influence other important parts of our psychological state, including our focus and productivity. A study conducted by Hiroshi Nittono, a Japanese researcher, discovered that watching baby animal videos could be linked to improved moods and increased productivity, skill and concentration.
Animals have long been linked to improved human health and emotional support—it’s why emotional support animals are so common these days and why people who have animals are more likely to be happier. Some of these studies have suggested that online cat videos might serve as a good form of digital pet therapy and stress relief. This would be great news for people who can’t have pets due to allergies or lifestyle restrictions—or people who simply experience a lot of stress!
Be mindful of your stress and wellbeing
We all know stress isn’t good for us. It can take a toll on our minds and mental health, potentially leading to anxiety, depression, irritability, sadness and a lack of concentration. However, it not only affects our minds, but our bodies. Prolonged or chronic stress can lead to sleep difficulty, headaches, muscle tension, gastrointestinal upset, fatigue, and even decreased immunity and the potential for illness.
None of this is good long-term. That is why it’s so important to manage your stress through healthy coping mechanisms. Not only will you achieve greater peace of mind and fewer feelings of day-to-day stress, but you will be helping your body and mind stay happy and healthy.
If you’re finding yourself stressed, take a note from these studies and settle in with your computer or phone and watch a few cute animal videos. The mental break, combined with the cuteness and the happy feelings, may be enough to relieve your stress—even just a little bit.
However, be mindful that watching cute animal videos isn’t enough to manage stress in the long-term. Combine this strategy with one or a few others, including journaling, exercise, self- care, meditation and removing the causes of stress from your life to achieve greater happiness and health!