Healthspan June 14, 2018

Along with their adorable, fluffy faces and endlessly amusing quirks, pets can be a beacon of happiness in a sometimes stressful, chaotic world. In such a fast-paced society, it’s refreshing to step back and appreciate the simpler things in life. Taking stock of what makes us happy is one way of doing this and if you’re a pet owner, your animal companion is likely to top your list. So how exactly do our pets make us happier?

1. Warding off isolation

Not everybody is a Social Sally and that’s okay but if you do find yourself feeling a little lonely or isolated pets make especially good companions. Dogs in particular are known for their loyal nature and some cats, although more independent, love to curl up on the sofa next to you (whether they actually want to be near your or steal your warmth is another matter!). While having a genuine two-way conversation with our pets may be an unattainable dream, we’re more likely to benefit from their skills as a non-judgmental listener. A whopping 97% of pet owners admit to talking to their pets1. Whether you tell them all about your day or confide your deepest secrets to them, this interaction can help boost your mood, happiness and feelings of isolation.

2. Strengthening relationships

Ever find yourself whipping out your phone to show off the latest photo of your cat playing in a box or your dog asleep in a strange position? You’re not alone. Aside from the classic weather topic, pets are one of the best conversation starters out there which helps create new bonds with people and strengthen existing ones. Even if your friends, family or co-workers have seen your cute cat or dog photos a million times, if it still makes you happy to show-off your furry friends, don’t let anything stop you.

Similarly pets, especially dogs, are a great talking point when out and about. A Miami University study reported that pet owners were more open to experience, more agreeable and more extraverted2. Even walking your dog around the park could lead to a conversation with a complete stranger to perk up your day. Alternatively joining a dog exercise class and mingling with like-minded owners will give you something to smile about.

3. Part of the family

To many of us pets are not just another mouth to feed, they are very much part of the family. Some owners, more than a third, even admit to preferring their pets to their partners.3 Embracing your cat or dog as part of the family can bring happiness to a home and brighten up even the dullest of days. Whether it be a family outing to the beach or a special get together, pets help make us laugh and smile, sometimes when no one else can.

4. Sense of purpose

Once we take on the responsibility of owning a pet, they rely on us for things including meal times, a cosy home and unconditional love. This sense of purpose can elevate our level or self-worth and self-esteem. Indeed, a recent study by Miami University concluded that pet owners had greater self-esteem, greater levels of physical fitness and they tended to be less lonely than non-owners2.

5. …and relax

Pets have long been recognised as stress-busters, who wouldn’t instantly relax when face to face with a bundle of fluff? In fact after adopting a cat or dog, even some of the world’s most stressed out workers, New York City stockbrokers, experienced lowered blood pressure levels4.

Even when things are not going your way or you’re feeling a bit down, pets have the ability to capture our attention, distract us and keep us more relaxed. Even five minutes of playing or petting can help us forget about our worries for a while.

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References
1https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/pets-happiness2.htm
2https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-101-6-1239.pdf
3https://www.independent.co.uk/property/house-and-home/pets/pets-partners-preference-cats-dogs-kittens-puppies-survey-research-a8188866.html
4https://my.happify.com/hd/why-pets-make-us-happier-and-healthier-infographic/

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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