My parents recently adopted a dog, which has given me a new perspective on how animals bring happiness to humans. My parents were happy people before they met Cody, but rarely have I seen a sentient being bring so much sheer joy into a family.

I’m not surprised that research shows that greater health and happiness can come from caring for a pet. One study tracked “hypertensive stockbrokers” who adopted a cat or dog; caring for their new animals lowered their blood pressure more than prescribed medicine! And you may have heard about the study that found that dog-owners tend to get more exercise than folks without a dog. Exercise is, of course, a sure way to boost health and happiness.

All that said, I never recommend getting a puppy to families with young children. We parents are usually so tapped-out that the last thing we need to worry about is another mammal. But our families can still benefit from a little animal love by taking on lower-stress pets (research points to the benefits of a fish tank for some people; I’m also a big advocate of pet rats for kids) or by helping out with other people’s animals. My kids beg constantly for more animals, but our diabetic dog is enough for me to care for right now. So, to fulfill their pet cravings, they spend 2 hours after school once a week caring for a friend’s chickens, duck, and quail.

This week, find a cat to pet, a dog to walk, or a fish to feed. If you feel noticeably calmer after the experience, consider adopting!

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Christine Carter, Ph.D., is a coach and the author of RAISING HAPPINESS: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents.  A sociologist at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, her goal is to help parents bring more joy into their own lives and the lives of their children.

Want more great tips?
Happy Mom Tip #1: Disconnect
Happy Mom Tip #2: Stop Rushing Around
Happy Mom Tip #3: Express Gratitude
Happy Mom Tip #4: Organize
Happy Mom Tip #5: Forgive Someone
Happy Mom Tip #6: Get Excited About Someone Else’s Good News
Happy Mom Tip #7: Celebrate a Mistake
Happy Mom Tip #8: Talk To Strangers
Happy Mom Tip #9: Share Your Good News
Happy Mom Tip #10: Flex Your Generosity Muscle
Happy Mom Tip #11: Be Kind
Happy Mom Tip #12: Take a Break 
Happy Mom Tip #13: Dance Around
Happy Mom Tip #14: Make Yourself Guffaw
Happy Mom Tip #15: Take a Stroll
Happy Mom Tip #16: Go Out and Play With Some Friends
Happy Mom Tip #17: Give Out Some Hugs
Happy Mom Tip #18: Find Some Inspiration
Happy Mom Tip #19: Get Out into Nature
Happy Mom Tip #20: Imagine Your “Best Possible Future Self”
Happy Mom Tip #21: Get Enough Sleep
Happy Mom Tip #22: Let Yourself Feel What You Feel
Happy Mom Tip #23: Expose Yourself to Someone Else’s Pain
Happy Mom Tip #24: Turn Off the Boob Tube
Happy Mom Tip #25: Don’t Buy That Thing That You Really Want
Happy Mom Tip #26: Take a Blatant Nap
Happy Mom Tip #27: Play a Game That Makes You Happy
Happy Mom Tip #28: Spend Some Time Alone
Happy Mom Tip #29: Take a Power Nap
Happy Mom Tip #30: Learn Something New
Happy Mom Tip #31: Have an Easy Morning
Happy Mom Tip #32: One Kind Thing.
Happy Mom Tip #33: Exhale. Twice.
Happy Mom Tip #34: Stop Stalling 
Happy Mom Tip #35: Make Your Task List More Fun
Happy Mom Tip #36: Ignore Your Kids
Happy Mom Tip #37: Take 20
Happy Mom Tip #38: Call a Friend
Happy Mom Tip #39: Lower Your Expectations
Happy Mom Tip #40: Commit to Kindness
Happy Mom Tip #41: Automate a Hassle
Happy  Mom Tip #42: Say No to Someone Besides Yourself