The Joy of Companion Animals
Animals’ impact on our everyday lives is well documented. For some people, pets encourage exercise, help us feel less lonely, put us in a better mood, and feel more satisfied with life. How pets bring joy to everyday life is a key ‘byproduct’ of the bonds made between humans and animals. This bond is mutually beneficial and has a positive effect on both parties.
Pets are companions, with over 71 million U.S. households having family pets; 95% of U.S. pet owners see these pets as part of their family. This familial relationship extends to behavior such as buying pets holiday gifts, cooking food for them, and dressing them up. The way we treat our animal friends gives us joy.
Animal-assisted therapy is one way humans benefit from human-animal relationships. This type of therapy involves dogs and other animals helping people cope or recover from conditions, for instance: heart disease, cancer, and some mental health disorders. It is is designed to improve physical, mental, and psychological health. Some of the benefits associated with animal assisted therapy is reduced blood pressure, improved cardiovascular health, and reduced stress. Pets have shown to reduce stress relating to the heart even more than close family and friends. There is also evidence that pet therapy can help relieve pain and improve verbal and motor skills. Anxiety relief is one of the main benefits to people who receive pet therapy – it’s because our body releases calming endorphins around animals. Before a medical operation or awaiting big news, having a pet present may reduce your anxiety and worry and also help occupy your mind.
Pets can also teach us about balance. As a society that is fast-paced and constantly moving, animals can be a breath of fresh air. They give a reprieve from everyday life when taken for a walk or snuggling up, and they help us grow in other ways. Folks who are shy may meet more people with their animal or feel more comfortable speaking to others; people who are extremely tidy may find that having a pet removes some of the stress associated with keeping a home in pristine condition; sometimes pets get messy and we must accept that! Our animals also give us subtle reminders to embrace every moment and enjoy life. Being present is difficult today with distractions ranging from technology to the news, and animals we interact with help us focus and learn. Taking a fifteen minute break to cuddle or play with a pet when drowsiness, boredom, or ennui start to set in can be revitalizing.
Pets love unconditionally, and they can help us realize our own self worth and beauty. They don’t act like humans in judgement or by comparing us to others; they think we are awesome just the way we are! Moreover, they remind us to feel comfortable with ourselves and in our own bodies. Their carefree demeanor can extend to our own worldview, attitudes and perceptions which can yield further joy in life.
Animals can be a source of great joy in life, and recognizing these inherent benefits can bring us closer to our pets. Next time your pet makes a huge mess, or you’re having a bad day, write down all the things about your pet that makes you happy, makes you laugh, or inspires you; it should be a reminder to live in the moment and enjoy life!
Sources: Independent UK, RR Daily Herald, Center 4 Research, PetPartners.org, Healthline, PetCentric, VetStreet, Huffington Post, PR Newswire, Semantic Scholar, National Park Service