Can entertainment media battle sickness, alleviate depression. and help you get your novel finished? It’s possible. A recent study published in the journal Media Psychology showed that individuals who watched underdog narratives for five minutes a day, for five consecutive days, reported feeling both more hopeful and better motivated to overcome personal obstacles.
“My hypothesis was that hope was an activated state,” says Abby Prestin, the researcher and social scientist who published the study. Prestin distinguishes between hope and other positive states like amusement and calm. “They’re good, but they don’t make you want to go out and take on the world,” she says.
Prestin came to this conclusion, because the people who watched the underdog narratives remained hopeful and motivated for three full days after the video series ended. Meanwhile, other groups who watched a similar schedule of videos failed to report the same response. (Though comedic videos did create feelings of amusement and nature videos did inspire calm.)
Interestingly, it wasn’t always the success of the underdog that led to feelings of hopefulness. One clip showed a scene from the movie Any Given Sunday, in which the coach of a poorly performing football team gives a pep talk. “It was the process of overcoming challenges that made people hopeful,” Prestin says. “Not the happy ending.”
Prestin believes this kind of video consumption could help initiate hopeful feelings in people who are sick, depressed, or simply trying to overcome daunting challenges like chronic illness. She gives the example of quitting smoking. “Since people are always told it’s so hard to quit, an inspiring underdog story could make a difference,” she says. “It could motivate people to do things they otherwise thought they could not do.”
So if you’re feelings down, put yourself on an underdog regimen, starting with one of the video clips from Prestin’s study. Then check out examples of the comedy and nature spots. Between feelings of hopefulness, tranquility, and amusement, you can’t really go wrong.