Complete Story


Science Says Spending Time With Animals Can Actually Change Your Brain

Pet-friendly offices often lead to friendlier, happier employees

Recently, Twitter called attention to emotional support animals brought to college campuses to help college students de-stress this month. The therapy dogs -- and sometimes cats, llamas and chinchillas -- are intended to help alleviate student anxiety. (Although specially trained and licensed, these pets go through a much less rigorous training process than therapy service dogs). Colleges generally contract these therapy animals from independent non-profits, and only a few times a semester. While Twitter’s “moment” about the animals was met with a lot of enthusiasm, it also saw some counter-tweeting from skeptics who see the practice as a PR move, something viscerally adorable but unproductive and unsustainable as a real response to rising mental health problems on college campuses.

I get the frustrated eye-rolling -- no one-time or occasional activity is a replacement for accessible and reliable mental health services. But I also remember bringing my dog to nursing homes with my mom as a kid (we got our pup therapy-certified once we realized what an incredibly sweet, low-key girl we’d found at the ASPCA) and seeing real joy in the people who met her. Granted, they were also getting some human social contact, which has scientific backing as a positive, uplifting experience (loneliness is consistently highly correlated to a wide variety of mental health issues). But was the experience of interacting with a dog a significant part of their mood-boost? And if so, did that moment of joy have a significant, longer-term impact on their happiness and mental health?

It turns out, according to the science behind the human-animal relationship, there is a strong correlation between time spent around animals and improved mental health. What’s really interesting, though, is that the Twitter eye-rolling is rooted in science: it’s not just any contact with animals that has real impact on your happiness and mental health. It’s certain kinds of contact. So, without further ado: here’s the definitive guide to maximizing adorable animals for increased happiness and increased mental well-being!

Please select this link to read the complete article from Thrive Global. 

Printer-Friendly Version