Just when you thought things were going to get better, the pandemic surged, causing yet again a slew of restrictions right in time for the Holidays. No, really?! It feels like 2020 can’t find its joy, not even a tiny sparkle of happiness, nothing to light up the Holidays. No family get-togethers, endless Zoom encounters, restless/moody children and no weekend escapes somewhere maskless and free.

Which leaves many of us depressed, lonely, getting crankier by the day, and wondering if we shouldn’t just nix the Holidays and pull a Rip Van Winkle until some time next year.

So go look at a collection of cute animals on the web. Truly! I don’t care whether you’re a sappy sentimental sort or a macho man/woman who wouldn’t dream of a moment of soft-furry-cuddle imaginings. Go look at an assortment of cute animals. Recent research out of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, in partnership with Western Australia Tourism, has shown that watching 30 minutes worth of pictures and videos of cute animals has tremendous positive impact on our health and mental well-being. You don’t even have to own a pet or befriend one “live.” The virtual version works just fine. Who would have thought it possible?

All this time you thought those cute animal pics and Internet videos were for children and bored web surfers. Not. They’re for you! Viewing them actually reduces your blood pressure, evens out your heart rate and lowers your anxiety. The researchers reported that average blood pressure dropped from 136/88 to 115/71, which is considered to be within ideal blood pressure range. Average heart rates lowered to 67.4 bpm, a reduction of 6.5%. Best of all (in my view), anxiety rates dropped on average 35%. This is hard science, measurable facts, not wishful thinking.

The added benefit is that viewing cute critters has none of those pesky side effects you might risk from anxiety-reducing pharmaceuticals (prescription or other).

So give yourself a unique present this Holiday Season. And if you feel so inclined, invite a friend or loved one to share the joy. Ditch Netflix (temporarily) and snuggle into the couch for a nice session of “cute-animal viewing.” Your body and mind will thank you.

Author's Bio: 

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, consultant, popular speaker and author of over a dozen best-selling books. Dr. Nelson focuses on how we can all enjoy happy, fulfilling lives while accomplishing great things in love, at home and at work, as we appreciate ourselves, our world and all others. She is the author of I Survived COVID-19, What Now?! Finding Happiness and Success in a Post COVID World" and “Happy Healthy…Dead: Why What You Think You Know About Aging Is Wrong and How To Get It Right." Visit www.noellenelson.com, https://www.facebook.com/MeetTheAmazings, #MeetTheAmazings, @drnoellenelson, and listen to her podcast Up! Uplifting, Inspiring, Practical on Spotify, Google Podcasts and on YouTube.