Friends with Benefits: How Pets Make Us Happier
“Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to,” Alfred A. Montapert wisely said.
Sixty-two percent of U.S. households include at least one pet, according to the Humane Society. That means there are 164 million pets in this country – more than triple the number during the 1970s. Pets aren’t cheap either. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spend more than $50 billion annually on their beloved cats, dogs, and other animal companions.
So are our pets worth all that time, attention, and money we spend on them? You bet! In return, our animals can give us better health and increased happiness.
If you own a pet, you already knew that right? But now a growing body of research backs you up. A recent study by Psychology Today indicated that pets provide meaningful social support for owners and improve their lives.
You’ve probably heard of pet therapy programs in hospitals that help patients facing serious health issues. How do these animals help? Pet therapy reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, decreases blood pressure, improves a patient’s sense of well-being, and reduces the traumatic effect of hospitalization making it a more positive experience.
People facing health challenges aren’t the only ones who can benefit from pets. Studies show that people in general receive physical and emotional advantages from contact with man’s best friend. Pet owners tend to be less depressed, lonely, and stressed. They exhibit greater self-esteem and are usually more physically fit.
Why is that the case? Of course, we feel an incredible amount of comfort when our dog greets us at the door with complete adoration and unconditional love. We can literally feel stress melt away after a hard day at work. Our adoring furry friends make us feel loved, provide companionship, and put us at ease. Caring for pets gives us a sense of purpose, making us feel needed. Dogs force us to get off the couch for a walk which is good for our physical and mental health. While taking our pet around the block or to a dog park, we’re more likely to be approached by other people and strike up a conversation about our cute little friend making us more sociable.
Research finds no evidence that the type of pet you own matters. Pets of all kinds can make us happier. So whether you own a dog, cat, bird, or hamster – show your appreciation for all they give us with some extra attention and love today. They deserve it.