Are there health benefits of interacting with pets? With the year we have all just had, you’ll be glad to know your pet was doing its’ part to keep you going. There are many benefits to owning a pet. Not only do they provide entertainment, but they can also improve your overall health in numerous ways, including mentally, emotionally, and physically.
1. Reduced Anxiety & Depression
Have you heard of “dog therapy?” It is often used to improve the mental health of trauma victims. Petting, snuggling, interacting, and even just being in the presence of an animal companion makes people produce oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone.” According to research, it can reduce cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone. The companionship and unconditional love of having a pet can ease loneliness and anxiety.
2. Laugh Therapy
With the sheer number of silly animal videos on social media, it’s no mystery that people find animals enjoyable to watch and laugh along with. Laughter has a myriad of health benefits. According to an article from Healthy Way Magazine, laughter produces endorphins, relieves stress, improves blood flow, boosts your mood, prevents insomnia, engages about 400 muscles, strengthens your immune system, and burns calories.
Animals need exercise just as much as we do. Whether it be walking around the neighborhood, laser light zoomies, or throwing the ball in the yard, when your pet gets exercise, frequently, you do, too.
4. Enhances Social Skills
A study done at the University of Missouri, published in 2015, showed that children who had pets in their family are more likely to demonstrate healthier social skills. For example, they would be more likely to introduce themselves, ask for information, respond to requests for help from others, be assertive, and pursue leadership roles.
5. Blood Pressure
According to an article on the Mayo Clinic’s website in 2010, the simple act of petting a dog can lower a person’s blood pressure. High blood pressure is very unhealthy; it leads to heart attacks, strokes, and damage to other vital organs. Just being in an animal’s presence can provide that soothing feeling of being connected to another being.
Don’t underestimate an animal’s capacity for emotional intelligence. Dr. Ann Berger is a physician at NIH Clinical Center who works with patients who have terminal illnesses. She teaches them the skill of mindfulness to help them manage their pain + stress. She mentions that dogs already have the qualities needed for mindfulness, but humans must learn them. “Dogs are very present. If someone is struggling with something, they know how to sit there and be loving.”, said Dr. Berger.
How have you been affected by animals? It always seems like they understand our needs better than we do! If you’ve been on the fence about sharing your life with a pet because of the work involved, remember that pets can enrich our lives immensely.