Family and relationships

Your pets may play a key role in social wellbeing, according to experts

The benefits of having a furry friend aren’t unknown, but according to doctors Hanna Palomar and Kathryn Tan, they may be your best bet in keeping yourself socially healthy.

By Nicko de Guzman

Long periods of isolation, quarantine, and social distancing changed the way we connect with others. Extrovert or not, humans are social beings. It is only natural for us to want to belong to a community and form meaningful relationships. As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has impeded this, our social wellbeing, to greater heights by not allowing us to be with our friends, family, and community for the sake of our safety and health.

Our everyday face-to-face interactions and meetings had to take a pause, and we don't know when things will return to pre-pandemic normal. Our loneliness and stress levels were at an all-time high because we suddenly found ourselves anxious and detached from society. Suddenly, we lost our sense of belongingness. But social connections may not be too far away. Your trusty fur friends may come to the rescue.

At the FWD Life Insurance’s “Be the Stronger, Better You in 2022” workshop last December 2021, Dr. Hanna Palomar and Dr. Kathryn Tan’s talk (with their special guest, Oreo the dog) focused on how our relationship with our pets can lead to stronger relationships that warm the heart.

Dr. Hanna Palomar, Chief Resident, National Center for Mental Health; Devoted fur-parent

Dr. Kathryn Tan, Fellow, Philippine Psychiatric Association; Diplomate, Specialty Board of Philippine Psychiatry; Advocate of #adoptnotshop

What is social wellbeing?

It is a pillar and an essential component to living a holistic life, says Dr. Palomar, Chief Resident at the National Center for Mental Health, and Dr. Tan, Fellow at the Philippine Psychiatric Association. Social wellbeing pertains to our sense of belongingness and social inclusion. It also has to deal with our way of making positive contributions to society and making and maintaining meaningful bonds in our lives. Besides physical and mental wellbeing, social health rounds out our human capacity. We need to take care of it as much as the other aspects.

Pets for social wellbeing

Believe it or not, our animal companions can do so much more for us other than playing fetch and rolling over. Pets help people form social connections. According to Dr. Palomar and Dr. Tan, one of the most common ways of meeting new people is through pets. Pets can be a great conversation starter and a good facilitator of social interaction. “Pets help people form social connections because it facilitates social interaction and friendship formation,” says Dr. Palomar.

Notice how people with dogs or cats seem friendlier? It’s because pets help with our self-esteem. Our animal companions help project a more approachable image to people, thus making us more approachable in real life. Pets, dogs, in particular, can change the way we behave because they act as social lubricants when we are with them. We start conversations with people passing by and we go out and walk more because of our furry friends. “Pets are social lubricants. When we’re with them, we initiate conversations, we take note of other people, and we become more positive,” Dr. Tan stresses.

Pets can also have positive effects on our total wellbeing. In terms of physical wellbeing, pets can reduce stress levels and can encourage us to spend more time outdoors. For our mental wellbeing, pets give us a sense of purpose and acceptance, reduce boredom, and lessen our anxiety. Pets give our day structure and routine which helps in both physical and mental wellbeing.

Who knew pets could do all of these? Overall, having pets can bring so much joy to you and the other people around you. The benefits to social (not to mention total) wellbeing revealed by Dr. Palomar and Dr. Tan are more than enough reasons for you to get or adopt a furry friend right away.

At FWD, our goal is to help you achieve the joy of wellbeing by helping you take care and nurture the different aspects of your life—physical, emotional, and mental, financial, and social.

To start living joyfully, book a virtual appointment with an FWD financial advisor today.