Why are they SO good for us?

Studies have shown that interacting even briefly with animals has a positive effect on many levels, including elevating our mood, reducing stress and anxiety, and even reducing the effects of PTSD and depression. But why is this, and how specifically does this happen?

First of all, unlike we humans, animals are completely "in the moment", because they have no real sense of a past or future, at least, not in the way that we do. They don't seek answers or reasons for why things happened the way they did, and they certainly don't concern themselves with what may or may not happen in the future. So the first benefit we get from our furry loved ones is that they force us to be in the moment, too. And being in the moment happens to be the best place for us to be from a purely mental health perspective, because we also happen to live in the present...and no place else...although we often seem to forget that fact!

We also benefit from a physiological standpoint. When we're affectionate with our pets, they're affectionate with us, and this encourages the production of healthy neuro-chemicals like oxytocin (encourages bonding), dopamine (the "feel good" molecule), and many more. Oh, and it also benefits our critters in the same way.

Don't have a pet of your own, or live in a place which doesn't allow them? No problem! Spend some time at a local pet store or shelter and get your cuddle on.