Do Animals Help People Feel Better?
Do animals really help people feel better?
Signed Animal Lover
Dear Animal Lover,
Yes, animals really can help people feel better. But this is not an absolute for everyone – and there are a few caveats that should be mentioned. It is not just any animal or any situation with an animal that will always be helpful. The animal needs to be one that a person can feel a connection with. And the formation of this kind of kindred spirit bond is a process that takes a different path for each person.
For some, a close, loving relationship with an animal requires physical touch. The animal becomes a pet and is perhaps a regular fixture in the individual’s life. The animal provides a consistent presence; and a mutual reliance between the person and the animal develops. In this situation, the animal will often depend upon that person for their basic survival needs (food, water, exercise, grooming). And the person will be able to feel safe and accepted and needed by the animal. A shared relationship of trust and dependency/responsibility will grow.
For others, the sense of wonderment and awe in this relationship between a person and an animal develops more from a distance. The person may never come into close proximity with the animal(s) that feed their soul. The animal is not domesticated – it remains wild and free. The connection that develops is still rooted in appreciation and admiration – caring bonds are still formed. But the person is more a bystander in the animal’s life, rather than a permanent partner. The independence of the animal remains intact, even if there is an element of need (usually related to things like a sense of tranquillity and peace of spirit) that develops in the person who is feeling the connection.
Both types of bonds that can develop between a human and an animal are a magnificent support, in different ways. Animals provide a degree of unconditional acceptance that people sometimes do not seem to receive from one another. There is a caring and fondness that grows – even sometimes a love that can be sparked – between a person and the animal that they value and treasure. There is an emotional safety that exists in a relationship with an animal that is not always so prevalent or constant between two people. The risks of betrayal and rejection (on a personal level) are minimal.
The types of animals that people choose to connect with usually have a naturally developed capacity to recognize and respond to emotional resonance – the emotional energy that humans unconsciously emit on an ongoing basis. They can sense what a favoured person is feeling and respond almost appropriately with what seems to be acceptance and support (or even empathy and concern), when there Is negativity in the air – and with happiness and peace when their human is feeling positive. The sense of companionship that animals offer to the people they surround themselves with fills voids and eases loneliness. And through the attention and recognition given by animals, people tend to feel more worthy and valued (or special) – they know they are accepted by or matter to someone or something, and that feeling fulfills one of our core human needs.
Caring for an animal also teaches a person some critical life skills, like responsibility, patience, selflessness and empathy. Animals hear their humans’ secrets and fears – they share their person’s joys and successes – and they never judge. Animals remind people that there is a world of importance that exists beyond the individual’s own personal experiences. Perspective can be gained when a human remembers that other things matter and they are a part of something bigger than just their own immediate circumstances. Through all these processes, a level of emotional and mental (existential) maturity can be experienced by a person, at all stages of life.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a goldfish in a bowl, a hamster on a wheel, a cat or a dog or a snake – or a bear or a family of deer or a sighting of a hummingbird – the humanity and sense of compassion and understanding that people convey upon the animals that matter the most to them is very real. And when people are able to think or and care for something outside of themselves, they find a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life, in ways that can bolster spirits and provide hope like nothing else can, at times.