Nothing compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal companion – your fur-baby - your wonderful pet(s). Somehow my fur-babies (3 cats) make me feel so relaxed and happy, no matter how upset or stressed I feel. We animal lovers have long known that no matter what life may bring — sickness, sadness, or radiant health, pets make us feel better.😽
It turns out that all pets, not just therapy pets, can help your mind, body and spirit. The unconditional love of a pet can do more than keep you company. Numerous studies have documented astonishingly wide-ranging effects. Pets may also decrease stress, improve heart health and even help children with their emotional and social skills. Also, interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support and boost your mood.
Now researchers can explain the source of our companion animals’ healing powers. Our pets profoundly change the biochemistry of our brains. Cat owners enjoy a reduction in heart attack risk. Watching swimming fish lowers blood pressure. Stroking a dog boosts the immune system. Therapy dogs are especially good at this. They’re sometimes brought into hospitals or nursing homes to help reduce patients’ stress and anxiety. 🐕🐈🐹🐰🐟
Here are a few additional reasons why animals help with brain power (credit: Danielle Hark):
Pets get you outside and moving: Sun and fresh air elevate your mood and the sun gives you an extra dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D exposure helps fight physical and mental conditions, including depression, cancer, obesity, and heart attacks. Also, walking your dog and engaging in outdoors activities like tossing a Frisbee gives you a natural energy boost and allows you to let off steam and also makes you more physically fit.
Petting reduces stress: Rhythmic petting or grooming can be comforting to your dog or cat and you. Concentrate on the texture of its soft fur, the warmth it radiates, and its deep breaths. When you connect with your pet, oxytocin, the hormone related to stress and anxiety relief, is released helping to reduce blood pressure and lower cortisol levels.
Pets can give you a purpose: Having a pet to care for can give you a feeling of purpose, which can be crucial when you are feeling really down and overwhelmed by negative thoughts. By caring for your pet, or another person or animal in need, you are focusing on something other than yourself and your life.
They make you smile: When your fur-baby does cute things, it can make you smile, which in turn triggers neurotransmitters to fire. These pet-time smiles can raise your serotonin and dopamine levels, which are nerve transmitters associated with calmness and happiness.😁
So, go have some fun with your fur-baby(ies) and you will both benefit from the pleasurable together time. And if you don’t have a pet or can’t get one right now, you can volunteer at a shelter. There are many animals that can still benefit from your love and you will feel the benefits, too.