The real health benefit of watching cat videos

A hectic day can put your emotions and mental stability through the wringer.

And though you can’t always control the outside factors that stress you out or bring you down, there’s a fun fix that can alleviate some of the damage stress does to your body and mind by opening the “feel good” floodgates… endorphins.

You probably already know that endorphins are hormones secreted by your brain and nervous system. What you may not know is that one of the easiest and quickest ways to get them flowing is by watching cat videos.

Research at Indiana University shows that you can quickly recharge your personal energy and warm your outlook just by watching a cat video online. The study involved 7,000 people and demonstrated that cat videos are more than a mindless way to pass the time. They are actually a great tool to help you re-energize and zap negative feelings.

“Some people may think watching online cat videos isn’t a serious enough topic for academic research, but the fact is that it’s one of the most popular uses of the Internet today,” says researcher Jessica Gall Myrick. “If we want to better understand the effects the Internet may have on us as individuals and on society, then researchers can’t ignore Internet cats anymore.”

If you are already watching cat videos, you’re not exactly alone. More than 2 million cat videos were posted on YouTube in 2014. They totaled a stunning 26 billion views. Cat videos elicit more views for each video than any other type of of YouTube video.

According to Myrick, when you watch a cat video you:

  • Feel less fatigued and have a more positive outlook.
  • Are bothered by fewer negative emotions like sadness, anxiety and annoyance.
  • Get sufficient pleasure from the video that it outweighs the guilt you feel about procrastinating.

Myrick adds that the “… emotional pay-off (of watching a video) may actually help people take on tough tasks afterward.”

And that appears to be backed up by research from Japan. Scientists from Hiroshima University found images of cute baby animals can have powerful effects on attention and concentration. In their study, participants performed better on high concentration tasks when they viewed images of cute animals.

But what is it about cute animals that evoke this positive physiological response? According to Oriana Aragon, a Yale psychologist, it’s all about the baby-like features that most small animals have, that trigger a survival instinct. She says, “Our survival depends on us taking care of our young. It’s part of our human species to respond to these features.”

In addition to flooding you with feel good endorphins, watching cute animals or babies likely causes you to want to do something contrary… like squeeze them or even eat them (though you wouldn’t really). Oddly enough, Aragon says that’s a way our brain helps us keep our emotions in check when we are overwhelmed by them.

So when the going gets tough, what’s an instant mood booster? Watch a cat video, and don’t feel guilty about it. It’s good for you in many ways.

Sources:

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0046362

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797614561044

 

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.

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