For millions of people, long hours, too much coffee and a frenetic work pace are the norm, not to mention the added stress of war, a struggling economy and terrorism alerts.
What's a good, healthy way to soothe your jangled nerves?
One proven way is to prop your feet up and watch your fish swim serenely through your aquarium. Research has found that pets calm nerves and lower blood pressure. And aquariums particularly seem to have a soothing effect. In fact, many doctor offices keep aquariums in the waiting room. Watching fish swim to and fro lowers the stress of waiting to be examined.
Research buttressed what many fish enthusiasts already know: the therapeutic benefits of aquariums. In 1999, a study showed that displaying tanks of brightly colored fish curtailed disruptive behaviors of Alzheimer patients. The fish were also credited with improving eating habits. Other studies also showed that fish calmed children diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Then there are the documented health benefits of pet ownership. Many studies have proven the link between a healthier, longer life and pet ownership. Though the studies have largely focused on the effects of dogs and cats, other species provide benefits as well. Keeping a pet can give you a sense of purpose and the feeling of being needed, a feeling that is especially important for people who live alone.
And coming home to your family, whether you have one pet or many, gives you something to look forward to.
"Watching your pet's silly antics can make you laugh and help relieve stress," says David Frei, spokesperson for the Delta Society, a nonprofit organization interested in relationships between people and animals. "Pets take away the tension that's in your daily life, whether it's for work or family-related problems. When you see a dog looking at you with his big, brown adoring eyes, that brings a certain relaxation to people."
Pets decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation, explains Alan Beck, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human-Animal Bond at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University. "A pet is someone to share your life with," he says. "There's a lot of people in this world who live alone. As a society, many of us live in apartments in big cities. We may not know our neighbors. We may be separated geographically from our extended families. Maybe we're divorced or widowed and live alone. And so for people in these circumstance, pets can help fill the 'people void' in their lives."
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