With the anxiety of the coronavirus weighing on the world, it is no surprise that animals are bringing more cheer to people than chocolate and wine combined. Okay, I don’t have any data that actually show that, but I’m a chocoholic with a broad circle of wine-loving friends and we all believe it to be true.
Even if the opinion of my social circle is not enough to convince you, there really is plenty of evidence to suggest that our pets do a lot to make us feel better in all kinds of ways. Some of the many ways that dogs and other pets feed our need for love and connection is discussed in a recent article in The Guardian titled ‘dogs have a magic effect’: how pets can improve our mental health. Though we humans must maintain our social distance, we can all give each other a virtual high five to celebrate the title. It gives dogs special status among the pets who offer a salve to us when we are on shaky emotional ground—now and any time.
Feeling a connection to other individuals is important for our well-being. Even self-described introverts who frequently speak of needing time alone or wanting to get away from people aren’t generally seeking solitary confinement. It is truly a rare person who actually wants no contact with others, though many seek refuge from large groups and constant socializing. Virtually all emotionally healthy humans crave connection, but those bonds don’t need to be with humans exclusively.
That’s where dogs come in. No matter how we feel, they can offer us immediate comfort, connection and love. Sometimes it’s as simple as lying down next to us or gazing into our eyes. Other times it’s that their need for a walk gets us out the door. It may be that their perpetual interest in play leads to a game of fetch, which makes us laugh or at least smile. Dogs make us happy by enhancing our life and by affecting our actual internal chemistry.
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The lack of judgment by dogs gives many people a break from social pressure, and that can make our bonds with our dogs even stronger. On the flip side, dogs can help us connect more to other people, too. Dogs are some of the best social facilitators ever. Who among us has not met and talked with strangers because we share a love of dogs? Many people make some of their best connections with other people when they are out with dogs and people approach. Dogs add to our social contacts both directly and indirectly. Dogs break down barriers to connections with other people as well as create their own connections with us.
There is no doubt that bond with our dogs is therapeutic. Any connection or source of love is a blessing at any time, and there is literally a world of people in search of both right now.
How heavily are you leaning on your dogs for emotional strength in these troubled times? (It’s okay if wine and chocolate are helping you out, too!)