It is no secret that animals have a tremendously positive effect on the body and mind. Indeed my colleague, Irene Tussy, wrote about this effect a few days back (see “The Pet Effect”). Whether you have a house pet or a support animal, or prefer to view animals in nature, all forms of animal interaction are healing to the soul.
Family pets provide the most common form of human-animal interaction. There is nothing better than your dogs running to the door when you come home, or your cats waiting to be scratched on the sofa. Even as a bird owner, I myself sense the relief my pet feels when I get back from school. As I indicated before, emotional support animals are also a hot topic and one that has been touched on in Irene Tussy’s aforementioned post.
There is one form of interaction that isn’t as common but at least as beneficial: caring for farm animals. New York City is not the best place for a pasture, but “the British National Health Service is establishing ‘care farms’ as part of mental health treatment, following a trend established in Europe” (Psychology Today). These therapeutic farms see patients participate in agricultural tasks that unite nature, animals, and humans as one. Also an increasing number of people are taking on farm animals such as pigs, goats, and ducks as household pets.
If you prefer watching the animal kingdom from a distance, a great option would be to invest in a bird feeder/fountain for your home. They are easy to make; I made one with a halved coconut as a birdseed holder when I was young. You might notice how calming it is to watch birds of all kinds interact, and discover the animal lover in you. Fortunately, Psych News is hosting a meet and greet with some furry friends in the near future. Don’t miss it! (Psych News and the Psych Collective will host therapy dogs on April 1st from 4-5 p.m. in Thomas Hunter 105. More details to follow.)
– Juliet Weschke, Writer