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Why Pets Can Really Make You Happier








As a happiness researcher, I’m often hyper-aware of things that affect happiness. I recently welcomed a Frenchie puppy I named Jocko into my life, and I quickly noticed how much he paws-itively impacted my happiness. Even on days when he wasn’t successfully potty training (on my white carpet!) I would look at him anticipating that I was going to be really upset having to clean his mess, and yet I was surprised to find that was not the case. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not fun when your pet thinks your living room is a litter box, but I’d look at his big ears and innocent eyes and I’d notice how they buffered my frustration.

And I’m not alone, since the pandemic pet ownership has risen; animal shelters across the country reported a surge of interest in both pet adoptions and fostering. Over half of Canadians currently report owning at least one dog or cat, and according to a Harris poll, 95% of pet owners think of their animal as a member of the family.

Pawsome Benefits of Pets

boost levels of happiness neurotransmitters and endorphins such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. isn’t just happiness that pets can also be good for. Although the “claws and effect” of pet ownership isn’t exactly clear yet, there is a plethora of research that shows many benefits of owning pet:

  • Physical health: People who have pets tend to have lower blood pressure, heart rate, and heart-disease risk than those who don't.

  • Psychologists at Miami University have found that pet owners are more conscientious, more social, have better self-esteem, and have healthier relationship styles. In a study of hypertensive New York City stockbrokers, adopting a dog or a cat brought down blood pressure levels more than medication.

  • better physical shape. Dog owners are 54% more likely to get the recommended amount of exercise than people without a pooch, and kids with a dog are more active.

  • Although scientists are still trying to determine whether animal companionship and social support are equal to that of human interactions, we do know that pets can provide companionship, comfort, and unconditional love – all of which can buffer feelings of loneliness.

  • Increase presence: Pets remind us of the wisdom of staying in the present. They can help calm a racing mind and reduce anxiety because they require us to shift our attention and focus to them.

  • Inspire a sense of purpose: Having a pet is a daily reminder that what you do matters. Being responsible for the care of an animal can help create structure, routine, purpose, and meaning.

Looking to paw-sibly get a pet to boost your happiness? Try these tips!

  1. Pick a pet that matches your lifestyle and personality

The best pet for you is the one that fits best with your lifestyle, personality, and interests. If you are someone who doesn’t like fur, has allergies, or isn’t home a lot, then a dog might not be for you. Research reveals that we are able to anthropomorphize all types of animals and consider them our friends, so there are many options to consider when looking for a pet to boost your happiness:

  • Guinea pigs: In a study with children with autism found that having a guinea pig in the classroom helped them be more social with their peers, smile and laugh more, and they showed fewer signs of stress.

  • Horses: Horses are among the most-studied therapy animals. Grooming, riding, and leading a horse around a pen has been shown to reduce PTSD symptoms in children and adolescents.

  • Crickets: Animals don't need to be cuddly to help. In a 2016 study, elderly people who were given five crickets in a cage were less depressed after eight weeks than a control group because the act of caring for a living creature was what seemed to make the difference.

  • Fish: Fish can help focus attention, calm a racing mind, and increase feelings of calm. A study with people with Alzheimer's disease found that they ate more, got better nutrition, were more attentive, and less prone to pacing when they ate in front of an aquarium with brightly colored fish

2. Paw-nder your motive

Getting a pet is a big responsibility, and so before you run out and get one, it’s important to take some time to reflect on why you want a pet. Not only will this help you pick a pet that fits best with your life, it can ensure you don’t make an impulsive decision. Read books, reach out to people who have the type of pet you want, or even follow hashtags for the pet on social media – do whatever you can to learn more about what it’s like to have that pet.

3. Plan ahead

Planning ahead can help reduce stress, boost confidence, and increase peace of mind. Take time to consider things such as getting less sleep, food costs, potential medical expenses, and what to do if you can’t travel with your pet.

Optional Call-Outs:

85% of dog owners say their dog has helped them get through a difficult time in their life and 79% find it’s easier to wake up in the morning because their dog greets them. In addition, dog owners report they are:

  • 83% more active

  • 71% happier overall

  • 54% more patient

  • 52% more responsible

  • 47% more affectionate

Did you know…Research has found that simply looking at pictures of cute puppies or kittens can improve your mood as well as increase feelings of trust, belonging, and generosity. So, the next time you are feeling down, try scrolling through #CutePuppies or #CuteKittens for an instant jolt of joy.

Give a dog a bone

A study from Columbia University published this year found that participants who spent money on their pets felt happier than those who spent money on themselves – or even on someone else.



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