Pets: Bringing Both Health and Happiness

It has long been known that humans are social beings. As mammals, we have evolved to crave social interactions and personal connection. Feeling alone can bring about potentially severe health problems such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. It is no wonder, then, that humans have been keeping animal companions for thousands of years.

Owning a pet requires time, patience, and a certain amount of responsibility. Those duties, however, often pale in comparison to the amount of joy a pet can bring to a home. Happiness is just the beginning of what a pet has to offer. Psychiatrist Dr. Greg Fricchione, a doctor at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, states that dogs in particular are able “to form bonds with human beings.” These bonds make humans feel especially secure, because the love that pets bring is unconditional. Dr. Fricchione adds, “No matter what you do or say, your dog accepts you and is attached to you.”

These emotional benefits can then turn into physiological benefits. Feeling secure and having attachment to something that feels the same way towards you can reduce stress, in turn lowering your blood pressure, breathing rate and anxiety level.

A Harvard Medical School Special Report titled “Get Healthy, Get a Dog” also brings up the physical health benefits a dog can give people, from children to seniors. Dogs need activity, and taking your dog for a daily walk is a great form of exercise for both animal and owner. Playing with the family pet is also a great way for children to spend more time outdoors.

The report also adds, “the health connection is often a two-way street. People who are overweight and sedentary tend to have dogs that are overweight and sedentary”.

If you’re looking to bring a pet into your life, there are hundreds of thousands of dogs, cats, and other animals in local shelters that are hoping to be brought into a warm and loving home. If adopting a pet is not in your near future, be sure to check out all the animal-related wellness events that come directly to you!

The University Health Services Tang Center collaborates with the Animal Rescue Foundation for Pet Hugs, a program that brings therapy dogs to Sproul Plaza on the First Tuesday of every month, as well as for two days during RRR Week. During dead week, the ASUC Office of Academic Affairs is also known for bringing out llamas to Memorial Glade.

If you’re interested in checking out these, or other, animal-related events that can both increase your general happiness as well as your health, be sure to stay updated through the Tang Center newsletters, announcements from the ASUC offices, and various Berkeley Facebook groups.