MAN AND WOMAN’S BEST FRIEND
Anyone who’s a pet owner will testify of the incredibly healing companionship they share with their animals. We know dogs are capable of detecting seizures, guiding those who can’t see, and help rehabilitate patients. Aside from fulfilling these designated roles, the actual bond between animals and humans is therapeutic in itself. Humans can experience these bonds with all kinds of animals, not just dogs or cats. But is there something more to this bond than just companionship? If that connection makes us feel good inside (and about life), can it actually heal us? How are pets healing?
LET’S LOOK AT SOME STUDIES
A 2002 study measured the changes in heart rate and blood pressure among participants who owned a pet compared to those who didn’t. The study required participants to perform math problems against the clock. Researchers found that people with pets had lower resting heart rates and blood pressure at the start of the experiment compared to non-pet owners. Pet owners are also less likely to have heart rate and blood pressure spikes while solving math problems and it returned to normal quickly. These findings showed researchers that having pets actually lower the risk of heart disease and lowered stress which improved performance.
Another study actually showed that having a pet in the room was more effective at lowering blood pressure when under stress better than taking blood pressure medication (ACE inhibitor). A third study found that simply stroking a pet lowered blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s also been discovered that children with no siblings develop greater empathy, higher self-esteem, and an increased participation in social and physical activities when growing up with pets.
IT’S NOT JUST A BOND, IT’S A CONNECTION
Animals are non-judgemental and love us unconditionally. We, as humans, need emotional support. Friends and family offer us support from stress, but interpersonal relationships can cause stress sometimes too. While animals aren’t always easy, they tend to cause less stress and offer more unconditional support. They always love and accept us and stay incredibly loyal. They’re connected to our emotions and respond to our moods which makes us feel more connected. Pets are healing at a deeper more intimate level. There’s a sense of mutual care for one another’s wellbeing and happiness.
Animals also encourage socialization even when we’re home alone. We still have our pet to talk to and play with. They help us to not feel lonely when we’re alone. Walking dogs or taking them out to dog parks surrounds us with other pet owners, keeping us social. By walking and playing with them, it keeps our bodies moving and physically active. These are other ways pets are healing for depression, insecurities, anxieties, and social struggles.
Animals connect with us emotionally, socially, and mentally, but also help us physically by keeping us active, lowering blood pressure, and keeping stress low. This is how animals can actually heal us. They literally benefit our health and wellbeing.