research

A Puppy a Day Keeps the Doctor Away? – The Influence of Cute Animals on our Overall Well-being

This week I read some research which was just too delightful not to share. I have often found myself scrolling endlessly through videos on instagram of cute baby animals until the early hours of the morning, I’m sure many of you can relate right? Cute animal videos evoke those ‘warm fuzzies’ we get where we feel happy, positive and all joyous inside. But alongside the instant feelings we get by looking at cute animals, they are beneficial to our general mental wellbeing in the long haul… who knew? 

A study published last year by the University of Leeds examined how watching images and videos of cute animals affected individuals blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. During the study, participants watched a 30 minute slideshow containing a variety of different cute animals (puppies, kittens, baby gorillas ect.). Participants’ blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety levels were compared before and 30 minutes after watching the slide show. Significant reductions in the participant groups blood pressure and heart rate were found. There was also on average a 35% reduction in the levels of anxiety that the group felt overall (for some, their anxiety was reduced as much as 50%).

Another recent study has supported further the benefit of looking at cute animals (specifically dogs) on individuals overall well-being. In this between-groups study there were three groups of participants who spent five minutes either looking at (a) popular funny posts on Twitter, (b) cute pictures of dogs or (c) Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. Overall well-being was measured on an established scale both before and after the five minutes. The changes in well-being were then compared between the three groups. The biggest and most significant benefit to overall well-being was found in Group B who had looked at pictures of dogs for five minutes*. 

But what is it about baby animals that we are so drawn to? Apparently it’s all down to a phenomenon called ‘baby schema’. As human beings we are automatically drawn to creatures with big heads, chubby cheeks or large eyes near the centre of the face. The warm fuzzies I described earlier come about as a result of wanting to nurture the cute creature and keep it safe from harm (I guess that would explain my sudden need to internally combust whenever I see a puppy in the street).

If you are having a tough day/ week so far, take five minutes to ingest some of my favourite cute animal pictures below:

Hope that helped some of you, it certainly made me feel a bit calmer 🙂

Stay Safe!

*Just for those who wonder, participants in Group C actually experienced reductions in their perceived levels of well-being pre and post viewing Trumps twitter.

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