We're presented with daily opportunities to make healthier choices. Unfortunately, these tend to feel like things we have to do, not things we want to do — even if they're good for us in the long run. But staying healthy can be fun! For instance, one of the best lifestyle choices you can make for your health is to develop a strong human-animal bond.
Despite busy schedules, there's a reason no one gets excited to give up quality time with their furry (or slippery or scaly) friends — it's because there are intrinsic benefits of animals to humans.
Especially if you live somewhere that doesn't allow pets, you might be wondering, Can't I just bond with a friend and get the same benefits? Although connections with other people are vital, there actually is something unique about the human-animal bond. Studies show that having a pet actually has social benefits, as pets foster connections and help their owners build social networks with other people. Yes, your animal friend can help you make human friends. Go figure!
Spending time with family and friends certainly has countless positive effects — animals simply communicate with their owners and express affection in a way that's unique. Especially if you're the one who takes care of them, knowing that your pet relies on you to have all of their needs met has a huge impact on how much that bond means to you — and to them.
Walking your dog, playing with your cat or even riding a horse can provide a dose of heart-healthy activity that helps you thrive.
Real bonds, real benefits
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, human-animal bonding improves the health and well-being of both animals and humans. They share that the benefits of animals to humans include lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety and decreasing the risk of heart disease — just to name a few.
A review of studies exploring human-animal bonds shows that even the simple act of petting your cat or dog can alleviate stress. Interacting with pets can be especially beneficial when you're under the weather. Animals often provide much-needed therapy for sick patients, decreasing pain and increasing energy levels.
A furry dose of happiness
Life can be stressful. Navigating relationships is often tough. Battling an illness is challenging. Depression is real. The benefits of pets can't cure all of life's problems, but being around animals can usually help. And when things are going well, that bond can make life even sweeter.
Part of living a happier life means working to improve your mental and physical health. Whether your dog motivates you to go for more jogs, your turtle makes you smile at the end of a stressful day or your incessantly friendly bunny helps you connect with your neighbors, the benefits of animals to humans are hard to forget. In return, adopting an animal that needs a home gives them a happier life. That's something to feel good about.
So, if you have a pet, give them an extra treat for all the good they bring into your life. If you don't, think about getting one, or find another way to spend time with one regularly (there is no shame in scouting for any cute neighborhood pups). That powerful bond could bring you closer to the sense of well-being you've been searching for.
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