Few things are more comforting than a cuddle from a furry friend. If you own a pet or regularly spend time with a family pet, you’ll probably already know about the mental health benefits it can bring.
For example, walking a dog is a great way to unwind after a stressful day at work. Even the simple act of stroking a cat or dog can have a profoundly calming effect on us.
If you can spend more quality time with the animals in your life, there’s a good chance that your stress levels may come down naturally. Here are some of the ways that pets can boost your wellbeing…
They help us to cope with stressful situations
A study at the University of Buffalo in America involved asking subjects to perform mental arithmetic exercises. Half of the subjects did so with their pet at their side, while the other half did the exercises alone. Those with their pets demonstrated smaller increases in blood pressure and heart rate. There’s something about the presence of the pets we love that allows us to cope with pressure situations much more effectively.
They help to reduce loneliness
Pets, especially dogs, offer companionship and friendly interaction with their owners. Sadly, a relationship with a pet is the only daily interaction some people may get. Being alone with your thoughts can exacerbate stress and anxiety levels, but a pet’s love can alleviate mental anguish. There’s also evidence to suggest that owning a pet makes you more approachable in public — increasing the human interaction you’re likely to encounter.
They help to reduce blood pressure
An initiative at Georgetown University in America allows stressed, anxious and tired students to play with puppies just before going into major exams. Indeed, dogs are sometimes taken into children’s hospital wards and care homes in order to de-stress patients and the elderly. There is evidence that interaction with animals reduces high blood pressure — a common symptom of stress.
They help us to get more exercise
Being responsible for a dog gets you out of the house every day — or at least it should. Dogs need regular exercise if they’re to remain happy and healthy… and so do you. The more you’re out walking with your dog, the more exercise you’re getting. Physical activity can reduce stress in a number of ways – walking is a great way to clear your mind, while cardiovascular activity can lead to reduced anxiety and stress levels.
They help us to stay present
Mindfulness and living in the moment are both popular stress-relief methods. We tend to worry about things that may or may not happen in the future, which is a cause of perpetual stress for some people. But interacting with a pet forces us to focus on the here and now. Instead of worrying about problems that may never arise, we can concentrate on making our pets happy in the present.
For you, this might involve playing fetch, going for a walk or simply playing in the living room. Take time out of each day to spend quality time with your pet and you may find ‘staying in the moment’ a lot easier elsewhere.