Empathy

Must Love Dogs

The Happiness Reports

Harvard University surveyed its class of 1980 to try and understand what makes a human happy. And their finding was that “happiness is good”. More specifically, there are three goods of happiness, which together help a person along to happiness:

  1. Good for others
  2. Good for me
  3. Good at it [Harvard University]

And we are going to be recording how we deliver the goods all through June in our happiness diary, Delivering the Goods.

But very recently, Harvard researchers have found that good genes help, but joy is best when it comes to living a long and happy life. And the best source of joy is in community. Community and our relationships are of course a big part of the goods of happiness – doing good to others, looking after our relationships, feeling connected. But what if the community you are embracing is an inter-species one?

Well, if you are looking for the answer, it so happens that some interesting research was published earlier this year, Solidarity with Animals. Some researchers in Canada and Australia decided to look at whether people who love animals are generally kinder and happier people. And they did this by looking at how “solidarity with animals” might have an effect on their lives.

The scientists were especially interested in the social connection between humans and animals. There has been a lot of research on belonging and connection in human communities. But what if this extends beyond human groups? What about the community between humans and animals? And how might community with animals make you a better person?

The researchers noted earlier studies that show the importance of animals in improving the socialization of children. And children benefit from having a pet in the home early on, with children as young as 14 months developing the ability to empathise with animals and to understand their welfare needs to be just as important as those of humans. A dog in the house makes for sensitive adults later in life, who care for the broader environment and the non-human life within it. Kids and animals do mix. And they mix very very well. And was there ever a stronger case for a dog in the house?

And animals help humans have more and better contact with other humans. And these are the kinds of relationships and contact that help humans do more good to each other and ultimately more good for themselves and their happiness. So animals help humans deliver the goods of happiness!

It is probably obvious that solidarity with animals will mean that you are kinder to animals in your attitudes and behaviour. But the research showed that when humans experience solidarity with animals as a social group, this didn’t just make them kinder to animals, it made them kinder to all sorts of human groups as well. Basically, animal lovers are less prejudiced all round. The results showed that animal lovers are less racist and less ageist and more concerned for the welfare of others. One of the things the researchers found was that animal lovers are more open to considering the perspective of others. Including the perspective of animals. They are, quite simply, just nicer.

As Human says, before you get too serious, make sure this particular box is always ticked … “Must Love Dogs”!

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