Admit it, caring for your pet can make you happy too. Science is working on why.
- A study shows that caring for your pets can improve your well-being.
- The researchers found the act of caring provided more improvements than mere companionship.
- These results aren't limited to pets. Plenty of studies show caring for others can improve your well-being.
Self-Determination Theory<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="XikKCzfm" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="09db13714ed0c564ca2c54f7b00d8b2c"> <div id="botr_XikKCzfm_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/XikKCzfm-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/XikKCzfm-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/XikKCzfm-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The authors interpreted these findings in the light of <a href="https://selfdeterminationtheory.org/" target="_blank">Self-Determination Theory</a>, or SDT. A theory of human motivation that focuses on innate drives and needs, it centers around the idea that humans function well when our internal motivations are satisfied and less so when they are not. The key motivations are:</p> <ul><li>Autonomy, defined as a need to be a causal agent.</li> <li>Competence, defined as the need to experience mastery.</li> <li>Relatedness, defined as the need to interact and connect with others as well as the need to experience caring.</li></ul> <p>One possible explanation of the pet effect observed here is that owners are anthropomorphizing their dogs and allowing their owners to perceive tending to a dog's needs as similar to tending to another person's needs. In particular, this is satisfying the need for Relatedness. Whether dogs actually have the same need to connect with others or to be supported so it can "feel free to be its true self" as humans do remains unknown. </p><p>In any case, it does appear that you can satisfy your need to care for something by trying to make your pet happy. Exactly how far this effect can be pushed and if it still works if people aren't anthropomorphizing their pets are areas for future study. </p>
But I don’t own pets, so how does this apply to me?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="XnsnciQP" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="cd72136aae7a6a2a8fd6c0d002af54d4"> <div id="botr_XnsnciQP_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/XnsnciQP-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/XnsnciQP-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/XnsnciQP-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The ideas behind SDT can be applied in many situations, not only ones involving pets. A variety of other studies have shown that providing care for others can improve your well-being, but have focused on what happens when <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315803968_On_the_Benefits_of_Giving_Social_Support_When_Why_and_How_Support_Providers_Gain_by_Caring_for_Others" target="_blank">humans tend to other humans</a>.</p><p>Science has confirmed what many pet owners always knew, taking care of your fur-covered friend is often more of a joy than a chore. This study points to new ways to improve your well-being by interacting with both humans and animals to make everybody feel a little better. </p><p>Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to play with a cat.</p>
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We see such studies in magazines, in the newspaper, and on websites all the time, that pets can help ease things like depression or anxiety. They also can aid in your quest for love. Guys who are dog lovers have long known that a trip to the dog park can get you a date, and one study backs this up. Another finds that positive interactions with your dog can help you make more friends and improve on the friendships you have.