a human's best friend: how pets relieve stress
If you’ve ever owned a pet, you’ll understand the joy they can bring. And while it’s not always rainbows, pets are often fun, loving, and handy for keeping us warm when it’s cold. They’re also good for your mental and physical health. Studies have shown that pet owners are less likely to have depression and even have lower blood pressure in stressful situations.
So, how does being around animals work to reduce stress?
1. The power of touch
Arguably the most important component of the ‘pet-effect’, touching an animal for 10 minutes has been proven to lower heart rate, reduce stress-hormone cortisol and elevate mood-boosting serotonin and dopamine all in one go. Can you think of an easier way to de-stress than relaxing with a fluffy friend? Whether it’s a cat on your lap while you watch TV or a doggie snuggle on the couch, get hands-on with them and you’ll be on a fast-track to happyville.
We’ve been living in isolating times of late and it seems many of us have been seeking connection in animals. Research shows that hanging out with pets can replace the good vibes we get from hanging out with other people. Dogs, especially, have evolved to be so in tune with human behaviour and emotion they can sense what you’re feeling and respond accordingly.
3. Healthy lifestyle choices
The habits we develop to look after animals often work to benefit us as well. Many pets need routines to keep them balanced and calm, and unsurprisingly a bit of routine works wonders to keep us balanced and calm too. That’s not to mention the benefits of extra exercise. Having puppy eyes persuading you to go for a walk is a big plus for your mental health and can help reduce stress.
4. Unconditional love
There’s nothing like the purr of a cat or the wag of a tail to welcome you home after a tough day. Pets offer unconditional love and can be the ultimate companions. They don’t find silence awkward but if you want to pour your heart out to them, they can be trusted with your deepest secrets. They find joy in simple things like sticks and leaves or warm patches of sun, and they’ll share their joy with the person they love – you.
While pet ownership can undoubtedly be wonderful, it’s also a big financial and time commitment. The good news is, you don’t need to actually own a pet to enjoy the benefits of being around animals. Volunteering with a rescue centre, walking a neighbour’s dog, visiting a petting zoo or popping to the dog park on your lunch break are all great ways to get your fix, and if you do it regularly it’ll work just as well.