Can Pets Make You Happy?

Animals make happiness look easy. They live in the moment and find contentment in the simple things, like running in the park or curling up in front of the fire. But can their attitude towards life help us, too? Can pets make you happy?

The therapeutic benefits of interacting with pets have long been established. Sigmund Freud almost always had his dog Jofi present during therapy sessions. He wrote that the presence of the dog was beneficial, especially when his patients were children or teens. In fact, sending time with animals can help to improve our overall health and wellbeing.

Physical Benefits of Owning a Pet

Dogs, in particular, need plenty of exercise to stay healthy. Luckily, so do people!

With days spent in an office chair and nights on the couch, many of us are sitting too much. Owning a pet can make you more physically active. Daily walks, playing with a pet, and simply moving around to attend to their needs helps to keep people healthy and fit.

Studies by The Journal of Behavioural Medicine also found that spending time with pets reduces cortisol and stress and decreases heart rate even more than spending time with a human companion.

Spending time with animals can even affect our perception of chronic pain. They are like a living hot water bottle!

Psychological Benefits of Owning a Pet

The most important benefit is all the free hugs.

Owning a pet can have huge psychological benefits too. Much like having a child to care for, pets give us purpose and make us responsible. We feel needed, which boosts our self-esteem.

A furry friend can also be a great social boost. Pets, especially dogs, help us make connections with others by allowing us to belong to a group of people who share a common interest. Their need to be walked daily forces us to get outside. Even if you choose to walk your dog alone, you are more likely to encounter people who want to stop and talk to you because of the presence of the dog. Research from The University of Western Australia found that dog ownership increased the number of social interactions people had with their neighbors.

Some pets do more than just make us feel more cheerful. Support or service animals are utilized to help people with daily tasks or to manage distressing feelings of anxiety, panic or depression. Beyond simply improving their owner’s outlook and contentment, they can literally save a life.

More public education is needed about their role, however, as animals have the potential to be used therapeutically for a range of conditions and can indeed make us happier.

No Pets? No Problem

Owning an animal isn’t always possible for everyone. You might live in a property that bans animals or you may have a demanding job or list of responsibilities that would make it impractical for you to have your own pet. You can still receive the health and wellness benefits of pet ownership without having to commit to owning an animal by trying any of these suggestions:

  • Offer to look after a friend or relatives pet for the day
  • Offer to pet sit in another person’s home and earn a little extra as a side hustle too
  • Volunteer your time at an animal sanctuary or shelter
  • Walk pets in the neighborhood
  • Attend local animal-themed events
  • Consider a new career caring for animals

However you choose to interact with animals, there is no shortage of benefits from doing so.

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