Here’s another reason to love your dog or cat: They can help keep you sane and happy! That’s according to Dr. Helen Brooks, a mental health expert from the UK’s University of Manchester.

Her research shows that 60% of people battling mental illness, like anxiety and depression, say their pets make a huge difference in their lives. Because pets are creatures of habit… and they’ll let you know, in no uncertain terms, when it’s time to eat, play, or go for a walk. And being regularly nudged by their animals forces pet parents to be responsible, to follow a routine, and gives them something to think about outside of themselves.

And when people are focused on something other than themselves, they think fewer negative thoughts. Our pets light up the brain’s anterior cingulate and insula… and those areas are associated with empathy and altruism.

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