- It’s been a very stressful year with the Covid-19 pandemic and protests, and a funny YouTube video or meme can be a great distraction
- It’s also a great form of social interaction, as sharing them shows your friends you’re thinking about them
The lawyer was stuck as a cat.
The video circulating recently of a lawyer stuck with a Zoom filter of a cat was one of the latest things making us laugh. Whether we’re enjoying cute animal videos or quick comedian bits, in a year that has included many layers of stress, a brief laugh can be vital.
“It is a break and a distraction,” said Jocelyn Carter, an associate professor of psychology in DePaul University’s College of Science and Health. “Our body really likes it when we take breaks to laugh or even just to breathe or sit in a different way.”
She herself shared the cat video among her family.
“One of the things that made it relatable is everyone is on Zoom all the time,” she said. “It activates a lot of different touch points that we could all relate to, and so the addition of the cat with the people doing their normal work just made us realise how ridiculous this situation is that we are all in.”
Since our bodies and minds do adapt to situations, it can be easy to miscalculate how much stress these unprecedented circumstances can create, she noted.
On top of an almost yearlong pandemic, there have been prominent examples of police brutality and racial injustice, discrimination against Asians, election stress and coronavirus-related parenting struggles, she said.
“I think we forget that,” she said. “We’re pretty good at adapting to hard things, but we have just had layers and layers of them.”
Go ahead, watch the funny dog video - it's for your mental health.
By this time, she said, most people have developed coping strategies. “I think we also probably aren’t aware of the toll that all of this adaptation has taken on our bodies and our minds and our mental health.”
While under stress, our bodies ramp up production of hormones that help us respond. But it’s helpful to give the body a reminder to not constantly hold onto a chronic stress response, Carter said.
A funny or silly video is a reminder that even things that seem stressful - a mistake in an important meeting - can turn out OK.
“We can’t pay attention to everything all at the same time all at the same level of focus,” she said.
“Laughing or engaging in other activities that are pleasurable help actually give the body a feedback system that it’s OK to relax and it’s OK to recover.”
So watch more videos. Plan breaks in your day for a few breaths, or a few laughs.
And use the videos as a way to socially interact, she suggested. Most of us are unable to see our friends or colleagues regularly. Setting up a phone or video chat might feel like more unwanted screen time.
But a text with a funny video or meme might be the perfect quick hit of friendship.
“Reach out to someone in your life and share that with them, and that’ll help you, and that’ll help them,” she said.