Petting puppies may be an effective and adorable answer to improving your mood, as studies link human interactions with pets to the production of stress-reducing hormones.
It goes without saying that many factors of college life can cause a great deal of stress for a student, so finding ways to reduce academic, social and other common anxieties is important to one’s mental, and even physical, well-being. What better way is there to do this than playing with some adorable, fluffy friends?
As part of UCLA Library’s “Stressbusters” program, the library staff, in conjunction with UCLA People-Animal Connection, a part of the UCLA Health group dedicated to Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activity programs, organize an event called Fluffy Friends for Finals.
This event includes both an opportunity for stressed students to connect with dogs in Powell Library, and for on-campus residents to interact with animals on the Hill.
Access Services Manager for the Arts, Music, and Powell libraries Robert Freel is one of those responsible for helping to coordinate the event.
“(The goal of the program is to) help relieve the stress that students face during final examinations,” Freel said. “Students really seem to enjoy the program and enjoy the interactions with a wide variety of dogs.”
The reduction of stress experienced by playing with these dogs is due to the hormone oxytocin. An investigation from “Frontiers in Psychology” into the possible role of oxytocin in human-animal interaction provided evidence that touching and interacting with a dog for a length of time increased oxytocin levels in dog owners.
If interacting with dogs and other friendly animals increases a person’s oxytocin levels, then that person is more likely to experience a calming effect.
In a study on the relationship between oxytocin levels and behavior by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, oxytocin appeared to be linked to feelings of relaxation and reduced anxiety as well as a decrease in stress hormones, such as cortisol, in both humans and animals.
For students who want to have the same relaxing puppy play time a little closer to home, the residence staff also provides a similar Fluffy Friends for Finals experience on the Hill.
“We ask the resident directors, faculty in residence, and other professional staff who own dogs to bring them to one of the lounges for residents to play with,” said Peggy Ho, a Hitch Suites resident advisor.
So, if you find yourself stressed out, or maybe just in the market for an oxytocin mood boost, find a furry friend and feel the stress begin to melt away.