When we think of healthy lifestyles, we tend to think of our bodies first. Exercising and eating right. Making sure we get enough sleep and drink enough water (there’s water in vodka, right?). We get these images in our heads of tanned, active people, with glistening muscles. That’s all well and good. (especially the images part) but we do tend to overlook emotional health.
As we learn more and more about the human brain, mental health is finally starting to be understood by the general public. People are increasingly taking time to meditate, to get up and walk around in order to center their thoughts, to make sure they disconnect from work at least a few hours a week in order to avoid burnouts, so forth. But emotional health, which is a subset of the bigger mental health umbrella, is still widely regarded as a buzz term without any concrete meaning.
What we experience affects us emotionally and that can take its toll. I never cease to amaze myself with these incredible insights! For the most part, we have little control or choice in what life throws out way. We have to grit our teeth and learn how to make the best of it. Lemonade and so forth. But one thing we can choose is the media we take in. You can make your life better with the anime you choose! Tell your parents – you need to watch 5 more episodes for your health… Just don’t tell your parents where you read that.
Different stories affect people differently of course, in fact they may affect the same person differently depending on a number of variables, so I can’t really make specific recommendations for all, I’ll just share a bit of my personal experience with you guys.
I have been guzzling down the Natsume comics lately. Beautiful picture I just painted there, isn’t it. Let me add some details. Whenever it’s not too inconvenient, I try to take public transport to go to work rather than drive. I hate being stuck in traffic and I much prefer being able to read and just daydream while getting to work. Originally, I use to actually work in the bus, going through my emails and polishing up reports but since I started the blog I use the time to read your posts or write my own. In the past weeks however, I have been reading about half a volume of Natsume before work.
And because Natsume is pure magic, I notice something unexpected.
I’m nicer. Well maybe that’s a stretch. I spend a half hour shedding melancholic tears and having my heartstrings hugged by the deeply tender adventures of Natsume and Nyanko. I usually get to work a little introspective and wistful. I’m usually the first one there. When I’m in that mood, very few things can get to me. I push aside unpleasant tasks until later if they’re not urgent and breeze through what I can do easily, set up my day. By the time someone knocks on my office door, I’ve come down from my cloud a little, but I still have this love and longing for others that’s purely due to Natsume.
In those times, I am happy to listen to people, eager to help them. I consider a smile my full reward. I don’t usher them out of my office despite hearing my email notification go off like a constant alarm. There’s a certain sense of clam and Zen that stays with me at least through lunch.
I’ve noticed other people’s assistants now come to me with problems. It appears I have been deemed “approachable”. My Tsundere tendencies want me to declare this annoying and roll my eyes, but something very deep in me is happy. I’m not sure whether that something was always there or if that’s Natsume too, but I’m glad I have it now.
A month or so ago, when I was watching Interviews with Monster Girls in the evening, I got flooded with this weird sense of …what’s the opposite of pity? Seeing the respectful and optimistic treatment the girls were getting made me think that people were going to be ok. It reminded me to approach those I might consider less fortunate with an open mind and not jump to conclusions. It ingrained it in me that pity and mercy aren’t the same. Basically, when my 94-year-old neighbor needed help up the stairs. I helped her, we joked around, and I thought to myself. Good on her – I hope I can still joke like that when I’m her age, instead of poor lady, she’s really having a tough time moving now.
On the other hand, I remember when I was watching Attack on Titan and MHA. Those shows energized me. They got my heart pumping and made me want to exercise, move around, be a hero. If anything, I was even less patient under the influence of these shows, but boy did I get things done. I renegotiated license agreements which such zeal that even my senior partners were starting to get a bit intimidated. I felt just a little more invincible. I also slept like a baby.
I’m a little slow, it took me a while to truly take in just how much of an impact the media I was consuming had on me. It’s super obvious when you think of it but we get busy. We have so much on our minds already that we push what isn’t immediately consequential, out of the way and then forget about it.
Lately, I’ve been trying to consciously pick my shows according to what I think I need. I will try to capitalize on moments of vigor by picking a sports or shonen show to get my blood pumping and keep those adrenaline levels high. I will stave off potential sads by binging a couple of comedies in a row, I will recenter myself with introspective and heartwarming slice of life series and make sure to challenge my brain and keep my mind nimble with weird psychological offerings that will make me think or at least wonder what the heck is going on. Once in a while, I’ll pick something I think I might dislike, to avoid getting complacent.
I rearrange my to watch list about twice a month. It’s probably mostly placebo but I think it’s working. I can’t wait to watch anime at the end of my work day because it’s exactly what I need at the moment. I am seeing things when I’m in the mood for them so I’m enjoying them much more and it’s bleeding into my daily life. I wake up every morning with something concrete to look forward to. And if something particularly annoying happens, I grab my Natsume, get a treat, find a comfy corner to hide with my book for 20 or so minutes, and come back serene and just a little more in love with the world and all its little nuisances.
What do you guys think? Should I put together an anime per mood list? An anime prescription primer. Take three episodes of FMA every 12 hours…
53 thoughts on “Anime, Because It’s Slightly Healthier Than Most Drugs!”
Perhaps because I suffer from the winter blues – and have survived them for years by delving into rereading The Lord of the Rings, starting with The Hobbit – when I began watching anime I very quickly noticed it’s effect on my emotions. Now I’m as likely to put in the Natsume DVD as reach for my copy of The Hobbit. It isn’t just emotional health either. My hubby has a chronic disease and now that he is retired he watches endless amounts of comedy of many varieties. Scifi, too, but so much scifi now includes a bit of wry, witty comedy – and he’s so much better off mentally, emotionally, and physically than many of the patients we see with his illness.
Personally I would LOVE seeing your list of shows for mental and emotional wellness. Take two Natsume and call me in the morning…
That’s wonderful to hear (about your husband).
I’ve studied health for way too long to pretend that emotional wellbeing doesn’t have very visible physical impacts. It’s so shortsighted to think our mind is someho not connected to our body…
I should probably put that list together – thanks for the encouragement!
I agree! I used to go cold turkey for entire school semesters because I didn’t want to be distracted when I had to study. I found myself miserable and very unhappy. In my last school semester, I decided to watch anime again and my grades were even better than before. I believe that watching anime uplifted my mood, which gave me more motivation to do better in school. It was a way for me to relax, have a break and treat myself to good shows. I learned that you can still do your hobbies when you’re a student. For me, watching anime was a form of self-care because of what it means for me.
That’s onderful and congratualtions on the great grades!
Try watching an action anime in the morning, a horror anime in the afternoon and then finish it all off with a romance anime before you go to sleep, it is a foolproof plan.
Romance would put me to sleep!
Honestly – an anime with every meal sounds wonderful! I really should try that
I literally cant go to sleep without watching at least 1 anime episode a day.
I know what you mean!
I find that a lot of anime I watch/manga I read definitely has an effect on my emotional state, sometimes for better and sometimes for the worst.
When I marathoned the entirety of Reborn! in a month I spent that whole month feeling very positive and wholesome. Watching Tsuna and his friends band together and save the day while engaging in their wacky antics just made me so… Happy!
The same applies to Hunter x Hunter (HAD TO BRING IT UP) which single handedly helped to bring some optimism in my life at a time where my whole world was falling apart and things were really difficult. The infamous “detours” quote at the end of the series ended up being responsible for me deciding to take a step back and appreciate the little things in life and ultimately helped to solve a lot of my issues at the time. It’s probably why the show is my favourite, on top of the fantastic writing, amazing characters and awesome fights.
But of course, like any drug there’s plenty of series that can put you down and make you feel bad. Have a “bad trip” I guess? While it’s my all time favourite manga, finishing Oyasumi Punpun literally turned me into a depressive wreck for the best part or a week and I felt numb inside. Probably because a lot of it’s central ideas hit a little too close to home and it’s ending scenario made me think “what if this happened to me?”
This only seems to be a thing with Anime and Manga too!
Maybe I just have issues and need to get out more though.
And yes make that mood list.
Great post, Irina!
Oyasumi is Potent…I can imagine anyone remaining unmoved.
I mainly watch ongoing anime before/after work, to relax. Before work, silly shows work the best. After work, the relaxing stuff. Often it’s just dependent on the schedule, but there are exceptions. For example, this season I never watch Steins;Gate before work; I save it for after. I can’t afford my mind being occupied with the show.
That show wants me dead…I’m sure it’s personal
I think a lot of us have these anime we return to when we feel down or want to cry. Or anime we choose when we want to get pumped up – or at least I do. There are certain anime I choose at certain times and there are certainly some anime that I know after a hard day of work will be perfect for unwinding.
Great post. Thanks for sharing.
I’m very lazy…any chance you already have a post about those anim
Not really. I’ve mentioned anime that make me feel good (like Natsume) previously, but given I think everyone has their own ‘medicine’ when it comes to watching, I don’t know that the list is overly helpful. People kind of need to find the anime that works for them.
“Im nicer. Well that’s a stretch.”
That is now my favourite quote from your blog.
At least I’m pretty self aware…maybr
Hahaha Irina I swear I’ll never tell my son to stop watching anime anymore 😉
World is now better – Work accomplished!
If I ever have to write a thesis about self-care, I’m gonna write about anime and cite your blog post xD
don’t dangle such sweet sweet promises…now I’ll be holding my breath!
But really, thanks, that’s a wonderful thing to say even if you don’t quite get around to that thesis 😉
Awwww, you’ll be expecting a thesis? How about a blog post and I shout you out? hahahahaha
To be honest – I’m already thrilled with the comment! This said – I’ll take anything you got!
Seriously? Okay then!
When I studied Theatre we talked about Aristotle and how the humans need catharsis. We watch certain things to purge and feel those emotions that we need to feel. You’ve described it very well. It is a nice sense when we know what we need to feel and can pick an anime to match our needs at that moment. This is also why I need large breaks in between psychological or dark anime haha!
I know…. It’s also why I end up soaking up certain shows without realizing it….
It’s not something I talk about often, but I used to be addicted to narcotics when I was a teenager. It kind of just came with the racing scene I was into. When I sought help and eventually quit, anime really helped me escape from all of the depression that comes with recovery, not to mention the emotional turmoil overall. Your body has to learn to survive without substances, which is an excruciating experience, mentally and physically. Even now, I’ve been sober for… 13-14 years, and I still turn to anime when I have low days, or just really fucked-up days in general. On my brother’s death anniversary, I’ll marathon Initial D because it’s what we used to binge together. Anime has helped enrich my life and has helped me cope through some of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever had, the same way that books have. I think that’s why I’m so damn passionate and respectful of anime and reading. This is such a wonderful post. You keep writing the most marvellous things. I enjoy waking up and reading your work. It’s always an excellent beginning to my day ahead. ♥
I’m truly stunned. I don’t know how to thank you enough for sharing this, it means something to me that you would.
Honestly, just Thank You.
It’s really tough to get right, the whole choosing anime to pick your mood thing. I’ve kind of become a bit too much of an overthinker for it to work for me…
I don’t really have a very large emotional range, and I’m pretty single-minded, so yeah… it was fun to enjoy anime that way while it lasted!
I mainly used comedies to loosen up a bit, but it really didn’t do much when it came to crunch time. Like all these psychological tricks, you have to be receptive to them. For a show to really impact you, it’s usually best for it to provoke an emotion that already exists inside you. Contradiction can really ruin it…
Like if you’re angry about an elitist snob at work, then you see a snobby MC who’s happy? Like I said, it’s tough!
Definetly any big change is hard to do but occasionally there are more insidious mood stabilizing effects that usually get noticed by others rather than yourself.
For instance – if you overthink anime like you do – obviously watching one will put you in an analytical mood, warm up the synapses and get them ready to receive and assimilate new information. Since your diverting ressources to you’re cerebral cortex – you’re syphoning them away from the limbic, which will dull thoses processes.
Nuerology is complicated!
when stuff happens your brain does stuff…
Rule of Serious: watch the serious animes first in the evening, and finish with lighter shows so you don’t fall asleep sad or angry. This is much better for your brain and mental health. If necessary, watch older shows with happy content to insure you fall asleep happy. Aria or Yuru Camp or Hidamari Sketch are good for that.
Sounds like great advice
Remember my anime watching tele-friend? We came up with this rule about 7 or 8 years ago. Much better mental health as a result.
I remember when the visual novel Katawa Shoujo came out and I played it alongside a bunch of friends, many of us commented during and after the experience that it “changed” us somehow; we better understood the need to communicate, and to be honest and suchlike. Some people bounced off it HARD — so much so that reactions to and disagreements surrounding that game all but destroyed a little “underappreciated games” community we’d built up, regrettably — but those of us who stuck around and engaged with it fully found it to be an immensely valuable experience.
I’ve felt like that with a number of anime, games and visual novels over the years. It’s always a nice feeling when something really “speaks” to you and engages your emotions in a particular way. And as you say, there are lots of ways these things can affect you, for better or worse! My personal “favourite” (if that’s the right term) is something that inspired a good cry. Every now and then you just need to let the emotions out, and a good old-fashioned tearjerker is just what the doctor ordered in those instances. This is why Clannad, Welcome to the NHK and AnoHana are among the few physical copies of anime series I have.
It’s oddly like the relief porn can provide, but for emotions rather than blue balls (or lady-equivalents). Did I share too much? Oh well, too late now.
Ha ha ha!! AMAZING comment. SO TRUE!! 😂😂💖
There’s no such thing as too much on this blog.
Wait there IS….There really is…
I understand what you mean. There’s definetly a certain catahrtic benefit to be had from second hand emotions.
I totally agree that a lot of anime has great messages! And I LOVE the idea of an “anime for mood” list!
But… better than drugs?? I don’t know. I’ve gone on some anime binges that had me up all night, my eyes were dry, I had to pee (didn’t want to walk away from the T.V or laptop as I always watch subbed and didn’t want to miss anything) I was starving….. doesn’t really sound much different than drugs to me!! Ha Ha!
I wanted to say cheaper but that’s also arguable…
Good advice! Recently I’ve been exercising with the aid of an anime, a 5 minute anime that’s about exercise (among other things), I’ll get on the stepper (I think that’s what they’re called) and work through 3 episodes. I don’t know if this is strictly the same thing, but I think it’s helping! It’s at least getting me motivated to actually do the exercise at the very least!
Actually I’ve been doing the exercise while watching anime thing for years. It’s been fantastic. Pulled muscle during AoT…too much adrenaline! Pretty Derby was awesome for it last week.
I started exercising while watching anime too! It’s super motivating!
Irina, I think this is one of the best-written anime posts I’ve ever read. It’s personal, yet relevant to others, makes sense, and breaks relatively new ground. And touches sensitively on important topics like mental health. And I think doing a mood anime list is a fantastic idea. 😺👍
Well this comment is getting framed and put up on the wall. I’m not sure I deserve it but I’m certainly loving the compliment. It made my day!
Yay! On a related note, I should probably stop framing all the comments I get. I’m running out of wall space…
Wall paper and bigger house!