I'm part of an online group of women writers, many of whom, like me, deal with various levels of emotional struggle, from general stress to diagnosed bipolar disorder. It's a secret, closed group so we talk about these things a lot, and people often ask for help getting their mind off troubling thoughts or just getting through the day. Whoa - heavy post for a Monday night, right? But hold on, this gets better, I promise.
Something I've noticed in my six months or so in this group is that people often specifically ask for cute animal pictures and videos when they're going through a tough time. Regardless of whether someone is having a depressive episode or mourning a pet or having money issues, everyone seems to want photos of puppies and kittens and goats (oh, the goats!). I hope I'm not giving away any big secret here - something tells me I'm not. It seems like images of adorable animals might have a real, measurable positive impact on mood, even if it's short-lived.
I started wondering about this when I took to the group to ask for some support the other day. (I'm not exactly shy about my anxiety - I feel like talking about it might help with stigma, and it helps me connect with others who deal with it. My desire to do that also led me to write this essay, which I'm really proud of!) I was amazed at the number of messages that came in the form of adorable gifs and images of dogs and cats - mostly cats. And I was even more amazed by how good this made me feel. So, I thought I'd look into it.
It's long been accepted that the presence of actual animals is good for mental - and physical - health. But what about just seeing images of fluffy creatures? Apparently, they can have a similar effect! At least according to this 2012 study by researchers in Japan. They were technically focused on how looking at cute cat photos and videos online at work might impact mood and productivity, but turns out it may actually be good for both! I personally hope more research is done on this, because if appointments with my therapist included looking at cat pictures, I might go more often!