Surprising research documents the many ways our animal companions help us. Human-animal bonds can have huge psychological and physiological benefits.
Stress Reduction—A brisk walk with your beloved canine can sooth nerves and offer instant relaxation. And the relaxation carries over once you’re home. Studies show that individuals who live with companion animals suffer less stress than those who don’t and also react better to stressful situations. Many hospitals, assisted living care centers, nursing homes, and similar facilities have begun to invite therapy animals into their establishments because of the proven positive impact on stress reduction and overall health.
Mood Food—Not only do animal companions do our hearts good through their unconditional love, but also studies show that, like any enjoyable activity, playing with or walking a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine—nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties.
More Health Benefits—Animal companions provide us with nurturing companionship. Research shows they may also provide a greater degree of psychological stability and protection from heart disease and anxiety. Studies also show that children who grow up with animals have fewer allergies to animals and that Alzheimer’s patients who live with dogs have fewer episodes. And AIDS patients who live with companion animals are far less likely to suffer from depression than those who don’t. Dogs also have a special skill at sensing shifts in diseases. Studies have shown that some dogs are able to smell cancer in people or sense the onset of an epileptic seizure.
Depression Reducers—Our animal companions help us to ward off depression and loneliness. Since they cause us to focus on taking care of them, they assist us in taking an interest in life. Particularly when seniors face adversity or trauma, the presence and affection of a beloved companion animal can foster a sense of security and greater life-meaning and purpose.
Joy Juice—Our animal companions are selfless supporters in our lives. They are always there, they don’t judge, and they simply want us to be happy. No matter how stressful, emotional, or downright terrible your day was, your dog will love you unconditionally, your cat will seek your affection and attention, and your fish will relax you by swimming in graceful patterns.