The Health Benefits of Being Around Animals
Seventy percent, about 90.5 million families in the U.S. own a pet.1 Therefore we think it is safe to assume you have or had a pet. They become part of your families, each with their ability to make you feel like you are the only person on earth.
The American Heart Association says it’s no secret pets can contribute to your happiness.2 Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and can improve your overall health. Just playing with a dog has been shown to raise levels of the feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine, creating positive feelings and bonding for both you and your pet.3
But what can we learn from these companions? Vint Virga, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, is the author of The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human. He has studied animals and the profound connections we share with them. He highlights lessons animals offer us like savoring the moment, remembering to play, practicing forgiveness and loving unconditionally.4
But can companionship with an animal help us find joy in life? The short answer is yes. As we get older, we may feel our lives change, not for bad or good, but just different. Children are older or you are retired with more time to do things that bring you joy and for many, animals can be a source of comfort and support – boosting morale, optimism and sense of self-worth.
While you may opt to forgo a live-in pet, you can still reap the benefits. Ask to walk a neighbor’s dog or keep their cat company, volunteer at a local animal shelter or simply say hi when you see a dog out stretching its legs. Even the simplest of moments with an animal can put a smile on your face.
And if animals aren’t your thing, find something else you find joy in. It may be photography, taking a class, or spending time with family and friends. There is no right or wrong answer but take a nod from our four-legged friends to simply live in the moment and find joy in things that give you comfort.