The Health and Mood-Boosting Benefits of Pets

Many pet owners are aware of the immediate joys that come with sharing their lives with companion pets. It’s only lately that research has begun to explore the benefits of the human-animal bond scientifically. Pets have evolved to become keenly attuned to humans and our behavior and emotions. For example, dogs can understand many of the words we use, but they’re even better at understanding our body language, tone of voice, and gestures. Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, alleviate loneliness, promote exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. Perhaps most importantly, a pet can add real joy and unconditional love to our lives. There are many health benefits of owning a pet.

How Pets Can Impact Your Health

While people with pets often undergo the greatest health benefits, a pet doesn’t necessarily have to be a dog or cat. Even observing fish in a fishbowl can help reduce tension and even a lower pulse rate. Studies have shown that: Pet owners are less prone to suffer from depression than those without pets. People with pets tend to have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted strays from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months. Playing with your cat or dog can raise levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax. Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without pets. Pet owners over age 60 make 35 percent fewer visits to their GP than those without pets.

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One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that pets fulfill our basic human need for touch and connection. Even seasoned criminals in prison show long-term changes in their behavior after socializing with pets, many of them experiencing mutual affection for the first time. Hugging, stroking, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe you when you’re stressed or anxious. The companionship of a pet can also ease loneliness, and most dogs are a great stimulus for healthy exercise, which can substantially boost your mood and ease depression. How pets can help you make healthy lifestyle changes

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Adopting healthy lifestyle changes plays an important part in relieving depression, stress, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. Caring for a pet can help you make healthy lifestyle changes by increasing exercise, providing companionship. Companionship can help prevent illness and even add years to your life. They help you meet new people. Pets can be a great social lubricant for their owners to help them start and maintain new friendships. Dog owners frequently stop and talk to each other on walks, hikes, or in a dog park. Pet owners also meet new people in pet stores, clubs, and training classes. They reduce anxiety. An animal’s companionship can offer comfort, help ease anxiety, and build self-confidence for people anxious about going out into the world.