In case you needed another excuse to buy that super soft and cuddly toy you've been eyeing at the store, science says that stuffed animals are good for mental health. If you're feeling stressed, anxious, or down, spending some time with your favorite stuffed animal can help boost your mood and improve your mental state. Here's a look at some of the ways stuffed animals can help improve your mental health.
Stuffed Animals Help Relieve Stress
When you're feeling stressed, spending time with a stuffed animal can help you relax and feel less anxious. Research has shown that hugging a stuffed animal can increase levels of oxytocin, the "feel good" hormone, in the brain. Oxytocin has a calming effect on the body and can help reduce stress levels. In one study, participants who hugged a stuffed animal for 30 seconds reported feeling less stressed than those who didn't hug a stuffed animal. The group who hugged a stuffed animal also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Stuffed Animals Can Help You Feel Less Lonely
If you're feeling lonely, spending time with a stuffed animal can help ease those feelings of isolation. In one study, college students who were feeling isolated were given either a live plant or a stuffed animal to care for over the course of two weeks. At the end of the study, the students who had cared for the live plant reported feeling less lonely than they had at the beginning of the study. However, the students who had cared for the stuffed animal reported feeling even less lonely than those who had cared for the plant. The students who took care of the stuffed animals also had higher self-esteem and felt more connected to other people than those who didn't care for a stuffed animal.
Stuffed Animals Improve Your Mood
If you're feeling down, spending time with a stuffed animal can help improve your mood. In one study, people with depression were given either a real fish or a fake fish to take care of for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the group that had cared for real fish reported feeling less depressed than they had at the beginning of the study. However, the group that had cared for fake fish didn't see any change in their depression symptoms. The group that cared for real fish also had lower levels of anxiety and stress than those who didn't care for fish. These findings suggest that taking care of a living creature can help improve your mental health.
So there you have it! Stuffed animals aren't just cute and cuddly; they actually offer some real mental health benefits. Next time you're feeling stressed or down, consider reaching for your favorite plushie instead of scrolling through social media or watching TV. Who knows? Your stuffed animal just might be able to make you feel better!