“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” – James Herriot
For pet owners all over the world, the words of James Herriot ring inevitably true. It is often hard to find a human to match the ultimate love and loyalty of your furry friends, solely because of their simplistic and unconditional efforts to always be there for you. Not to say that there aren’t plenty of fantastic human beings out there, it is just that we have developed this special relationship with our pets: a pure bond that can somehow silence all evil. Dogs aren’t labeled as mans best friend for nothing!
But how did this happen? What is it that makes us connect with pets so brilliantly? Why do they make us so happy?
Well… it is no secret that having a pet is a significant source of emotional support. This applies to the majority of what we would call “everyday” people, as well as those with serious mental health disorders. Our animals can be just as close to our hearts as those family members or friends that we love most. Having a support system through a pet can make a big change in anyone’s life, considering that you will have someone always by your side, someone who can brighten your day even in the darkest of times.
Psychologists at the University of Miami and Saint Louis University conducted a couple of studies in which strong results were found that favored pet owners as generally happier and healthier people. Researchers concluded that, based on survey data, being a pet owner can be a huge upgrade to one’s quality of life. “Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners,” said lead researcher Allen R. McConnell, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio. I believe most people would attest to this result, claiming that their pets have made them stronger people overall, with more genuine qualities and a brighter outlook on daily life. (This study was published online by the American Psychological Association and reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.)
In a second section of their study, they surveyed a large group of undergraduates to find that having a pet can help many young owners feel exceptionally less downtrodden after being faced with rejection. “The present work presents considerable evidence that pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically, by serving as an important source of social support,” the researchers wrote.
Furthermore, animal to human contact can be especially helpful for college students. It is becoming more popular for colleges and universities to bring in therapy dogs for their students to interact with when it comes time to take finals at the end of the semester. According to the National Center for Health Research, in a 2002 study, researchers found a correlation between a student’s test performance and having a pet in the room, based on lowered heart rates and blood pressure. “These findings indicated that having a dog or cat lowered the risk of heart disease, as well as lowering stress so that performance improved,” they concluded. To think that merely a supporting pet in the student’s testing area can drastically affect their ability to test well is…incredible! This idea even goes further than college students. Children of all ages have shown to have a decrease in anxiety when in contact with their pets.
The National Institute of Health seems to be in agreement that pet interaction has a multitude of beneficial effects, considerably in therapy situations for those with any range of mental disorder. “Banks and Banks (2002, 2005) showed in two controlled studies with patients in long-term care facilities that animal visitation programs reduced feelings of loneliness,” they concluded, as recorded online with the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information). They continue to show findings that pet therapy has been able to reduce depression rates in animal therapy patients and improve mood balances for children and adults alike. “Children with psychiatric disorders showed better intra-emotional balance after only a single therapy session with a dog (Prothmann et al.,2006).” In summary, their list of positive outcomes for animal contact, to people with and without mental or medical conditions, is enticing and overwhelming in the best way possible. The list includes: “improvement of social attention, behavior, interpersonal interaction, and mood; reduction of self-reported fear and anxiety; reduced aggression; improved learning…” and more.
As innumerable new studies are executed, supporting the results that all people can benefit from having a pet of their own, I would expect that society itself would be in favor of the increased level of happiness, comfort and compatibility between each other. Who knew that it was our pets all along that help make the world go round? So why wait… become a part of the movement today!