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Struggling to concentrate on your PhD? The answer is cuddly

It doesn’t matter how focused a writer or researcher you think you are, we’ve all had it – that pen-tapping, chin-scratching, foot-shuffling lack of concentration that threatens to halt even the most promising day of work. You’re three hours in and so far you’ve managed to boil the kettle six times and actually make a cup of coffee twice, because really you just want to pretend you’re actually creating something, even if it is just a hot beverage. Then you return, sighing heavily, to the Word document before you, the cursor hovering over your distinct lack of effort like a marker of guilt.

Why can’t I concentrate, you ask? Who knows? It’s usually down to tiredness, the subconscious will to procrastinate instead of facing one’s responsibilities, and because you would quite often rather be doing something a lot less sensible and a lot more fun – like diving into a paddling pool, or baking some triple-chocolate brownies and eating most of the mixture before you’ve put it in the oven.

Believe it or not, the answer is a simple, yet charming, one:

Yep, research from the Hiroshima University reveals that even just looking at pictures of ‘cute’ animals can revive concentration levels, as it is believed that the endearing images cause the viewer to perform tasks with greater care, time and thought thereafter. In Japanese, the word “kawaii” means ‘cute’, so the study is aptly named the ‘Power of Kawaii’.

Equally, if you are lacking in concentration because you are suffering from stress, spending as little as five minutes in the company of a furry friend can lower your blood pressure, release endorphins and reform your perspective on the world again. There is something about engaging with a creature whose brain is comparatively devoid of such life pressures, and therefore completely innocent, that has a calming and restorative effect.

So, next time you are struggling to stay focused, do as the Japanese suggest: Google pictures of adorable kittens or call out to your loyal pooch – you may just find yourself refocusing after a short furry break.

‘Kawaii’ is definitely the way forward in studying.


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