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6 Ways to Feel Happier, Be Healthier

How a positive attitude really can make a difference

Dog owners were found to be as emotionally close to their pets as to their closest family members.

Gary Seymour with his Staffordshire terrier, Buddy, at their Los Angeles-area home. — Daryl Peveto/LUCEO Images

1. Adopt an Animal Companion

Pets provide more than companionship and a warm welcome home. They lend a willing and helpful ear — even if they have fins or feathers instead of fur.

Many pet owners confide in a pet because pets don't judge, condemn or talk back. Studies have found that dog owners are often as emotionally close to their pets as to their closest family members

An astonishing 97 percent of dog and cat owners reported that they talk to their pets, notes Alan Beck, director of the Center of the Human Animal Bond at Purdue University. "The other 3 percent lied," he quips.

People talk to their pets because they don't have to worry about what they say or worry about the response."Just as it's more relaxing to walk in a park than a parking lot, it's more relaxing to be with an animal than to be alone. It's as calming as looking at a sunset." says Beck.

If you'd like to have a pet in your life but don't want the responsibility of owning a dog or cat, you can volunteer at an animal shelter or zoo, offer to walk a neighbor's dog on a regular basis, set up an aquarium, consider a parakeet or put out bird feeders.

Next: Happiness Tip No. 2: Sing (or listen to) a song. >>

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