We all know that friend who is basically in a relationship with her dog, cat or hamster. They’re hell–bent on adopting in a dog, when the truth is your house can barely take out the trash. They cause a scene at the sight of a puppy on Locust. If you know me, then, hello, I am that friend. Puppies bring me joy and now I know that perhaps there truly is scientific evidence behind the “warm and fuzzies.”
During finals, Penn’s puppy study breaks are usually packed. Dozens of students lined up to spend some time with adorable dogs, from the Penn Working Dog Center. The use of therapy pets at Universities has been in response to rising mental health issues. Stress and anxiety ridden students overwhelm themselves, and often lack an outlet. Studies suggest that mere eye contact with dogs can trigger the release of oxytocin, aka the cuddle hormone, in our bodies. The release of oxytocin in our bodies has been linked to increased relaxation, and positive social interaction. If you’re not an animal person (gasp), don’t worry. Acts such as hugging, listening to soothing music, and even daydreaming about your crush can lead to increased levels of oxytocin as well. Therapy pets have also been known to reduce blood pressure and even improve cardiovascular health. They are widely used in the medical field for their healing tendencies and soothing presence. Not only this, but pets may even be able to help you achieve your goals. Another study described in the Scientific American Mind revealed that when asked to come up with a list of goals and confidence in attaining them, participants with pets in the room identified more goals and were more self–confident about these goals.
It might just be that spending time with pets can reduce your stress levels and help you focus on achieving success. Try pet therapy the next time your study group takes five. If you’re interested, check out the “Relax Well” Puppies and Puppy Chow study break. It will take place on Wednesday December 7 in the Sansom West Lobby, from 8–10 p.m.