Remember that lawyer cat video? Experts say you should watch more like it

Chicago, Illinois - The internet loved the viral video of a Texas lawyer stuck as a cat.

Experts recommend taking breaks during the day to watch funny videos for a laugh (collage, stock image).
Experts recommend taking breaks during the day to watch funny videos for a laugh (collage, stock image).  © Collage: Screenshot/YouTube/394th District Court of Texas; 123rf/melpomen

A recent video of a lawyer who appeared at a Zoom hearing with a cat filter was one of the latest internet stories to make us laugh. Whether we're enjoying cute animal videos or short comedy bits, brief moments of good humor can be vital, especially in a year marked by so much stress and uncertainty.

"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."

Carter also shared the cat video among her family.

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"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 juxtaposition of the cat with the people doing their normal work just made us realize how ridiculous this situation is that we are all in."

"I'm here live, I'm not a cat"

Experts say: "watch more videos"

Attorney Ron Ponton appeared as a fluffy kitten during an important Zoom hearing.
Attorney Ron Ponton appeared as a fluffy kitten during an important Zoom hearing.  © Screenshot/YouTube/394th District Court of Texas

Since our bodies and minds do adapt to new situations, it can be easy to miscalculate how much stress the unprecedented circumstances we are living through can create, Carter 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 added. "We're pretty good at adapting to hard things, but we have just had layers and layers of them."

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By this time, Carter 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."

Our bodies ramp up the production of hormones that help us respond when we are under stress, but it's helpful to give the body a reminder that it doesn't constantly need to have a chronic stress response, Carter advised.

A funny or silly video is a reminder that even things that seem stressful – like a making an embarrassing mistake in an important meeting – can turn out all right.

"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.

Use the videos as a way to interact socially, Carter 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 quick, perfect dose of friendship we all need right now.

"Reach out to someone in your life and share that with them, and that'll help you, and that'll help them," she said.

Cover photo: Screenshot/YouTube/394th District Court of Texas; 123rf/melpomen

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