By: Eileen Guo
We all start screaming in a high pitched voice when we see a cute dog on a walk because we know the immediate joys of meeting one. Animals serve various purposes but many of us are unaware of the mental and psychological benefits they bring. The popular phrase describing dogs as, “man’s best friend” is no lie. Snuggling up with a furry friend can help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, ease loneliness, encourage playfulness, and improve cardiovascular health.
A direct explanation for their therapeutic effects is the sole fulfillment of a human’s need for touch. Touch is vital for humans as they have proven effects of decreasing violence, building trust between individuals, and boosting one’s overall wellbeing. Having the companionship of a pet is a direct source of touch that can ease stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Pets have the ability to change their behavior based on the owner’s dialogue and tone of voice but they don’t have the ability to hold grudges or worry about the future. With a fearless furry companion alongside them, one does not need to fear for the future or be self conscious.
A pet can bring immediate joy and relief which leads to long-term benefits. Nothing is better than coming back from a stressful day of school or work and seeing a happy face and a wagging tail from your dog. The physical action of smiling triggers the release of dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, chemicals that not only relax your body, but also lower your heart rate and blood pressure. The physical joy of having a pet brings psychological and emotional benefits as well. Having a furry companion in a time like this is really helpful for boosting the physical touch that humans constantly crave.
Wilhelm, F. H., Kochar, A. S., Roth, W. T., & Gross, J. J. (2001). Social anxiety and response to touch: Incongruence between self-evaluative and physiological reactions. Biological Psychology, 58, 181-202