As if you needed a reason to love your pet any more, research shows that they can provide comfort when they sense that you’re feeling down.
Dogs are a bit better at this than cats, but scientists assume that this is merely because they have been domesticated longer and have had more time to tune into the benefits of providing companionship to their humans.
And if you needed even more proof that pets are the ideal companions, there’s also a 2002 study out of SUNY Buffalo that showed that pets were actually better than spouses or friends at reducing stress.
Pet owners have lower heart rates and blood pressure readings and better reactions to stress tests. In this case, the study showed that cats and dogs were equally beneficial.
The evidence is piling up that we can live better, healthier lives with the help of our furry friends. This likely comes as no surprise to current pet owners!
Your furbabies can also help reduce symptoms of mental illness, such as depression and anxiety.
In a 2016 study, researchers showed that pets provide a sense of security and emotional support to owners suffering from depression. Life coach Desiree Wiercyski explained:
“A pet can remind you that you’re not alone. Pets offer unconditional love, which can be extraordinarily soothing when feeling isolated.”
In a survey by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute, 74% of pet owners said their pets improved their mental health. For example, in addition to providing emotional support, pets need to follow a routine. Knowing that you have to feed your pet, take it for a walk, or give it some play time can help give people suffering from depression a sense of purpose and routine.
Cuddling with or petting your furry friend can also improve mood by altering the chemicals in your brain.
Touch helps increase levels of oxytocin, which plays a role in social bonding, and dopamine, which helps with motivation. Petting an animal can also help reduce cortisol levels and thereby reduce feelings of stress.
Since depression often keeps people from going out, having a pet you need to walk (hey, cats can be walked too!) also helps people get up and out of their homes.
A few minutes of fresh air and sunlight can often help reduce symptoms of depression (though scientists are still working on discovering the mechanisms that make that work).
A good walk with your pet also opens you up to more social interaction. Even getting a smile from someone on the street can help improve mood.
Having a pet means taking responsibility for the life of another creature. While this can have a positive impact on your mental and physical health, not everyone is capable of full-time pet care.
In these cases, researchers suggest spending time with the pets of friends or family, stopping by pet cafes, offering to pet sit or dog walk for a neighbor, or volunteering at a shelter. You don’t necessarily need to take home your own animal in order to experience the benefits.
And while stoking a pet does have a greater impact, low-maintenance pets help calm people too. That’s why many doctors and dentist offices have fish tanks. Even watching an animal do its thing can provide a calming effect.
While animal-lovers need no convincing that pets are the ultimate companions, it’s nice to know that research continues to back up our hunches that pets improve our lives and increase our sense of well-being.
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Source: Positive Outlooks Blog