When thinking about ways to decrease stress, common methods that come into most people’s minds include yoga, meditation, writing a journal, or listening to music. While these techniques are great for stress management, spending time around pets can also be beneficial for your mental health and overall well-being.
Whether it’s playing with your cat, walking your dog, or singing to your bird, your pet can help you have a happier, healthier mind. To give you more insight, here’s how pets reduce the stress we feel in our daily lives, allowing us to enjoy everything a little better.
How Do Pets Help with Stress Reduction?
1. They relax you
Though petting your cat or giving your dog a belly rub is obviously enjoyable and relaxing for them, the act itself also relaxes you as well. As you give your pet a therapeutic massage and run your hand through his body, your touch increases feel-good hormones in your body and decreases the production of stress hormones. In turn, it reduces your heart rate and creates positive feelings for both you and your pet.
2. They decrease blood pressure
While ACE inhibitor drugs generally lower blood pressure, they are not as efficient in managing blood pressure spikes due to tension and stress. In the mid-1980s, studies concluded that engaging with animals had positive physiological effects, particularly in lowering blood pressure, which is one of the primary measures of stress. Truth to be told, you don’t even have to touch your pet. Simply being around an animal is enough to get the effect. Watching your fish in the aquarium brings the same benefit.
3. They provide a sense of purpose
If you’re stressed, depressed, or anxious about what’s happening in your life, a pet can be your lifesaver. Having a pet gives you a new sense of purpose and a reason to get out of bed, as you’re also responsible for looking after them. Once you’re able to take care of your pet properly, doing so can bring joy and a sense of fulfillment and can help boost your optimism, morale, and self-worth.
If you don’t have a pet yet, opt to adopt from a shelter, as it’s even more meaningful, knowing that you’ve provided a home to a pet that could’ve been euthanized. Then, await how you can change your life in return by giving you more reason to live.
4. They’re therapeutic
From dogs to cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, rabbits, and horses, many animals act as therapy pets in retirement homes, nursing homes, hospice centers, visit hospitals, and schools. They help reduce stress and anxiety by serving as a source of support and comfort. You’ll be surprised how many people are hesitant to talk to people but open up quickly to an animal. Same with your pets at home, there’s something reinvigorating with animals, which is why it’s always fun to come home seeing your purring cat or dog with a wagging tail.
5. They provide companionship
Having pets can make you feel less lonely, which is a main contributor to stress. Instead of loneliness, you’ll feel a sense of togetherness by bonding with your pet. As you see, hear, touch, and talk to your pet, you feel needed and wanted. It brings a sense of goodwill, pleasure, and nurturing, which all combats stress. Take note that companionship from a pet doesn’t only make your life less stressful, it can also add years to your life, opposite to isolation and depression.
6. They help you stay connected
Pets are an excellent social lubricant, especially if you’re the type of person who finds it difficult to start and maintain new friendships. For instance, walking your dog in the park creates opportunities for social interactions. It helps you appear more approachable, and your pet usually serves as a great conversation starter. Therefore, you’d be able to meet new people and increase your number of friends and acquaintances, which also offers a lot of benefits in terms of stress management.
Due to the shared interest, you can also have friendly interactions at the pet store, vet, animal clubs, and training classes. If you have a social phobia or fear of social situations, your pet can also aid in slowly introducing you to other people. A simple “What a cute dog!” can go a long way in establishing new friendships.
7. They teach valuable characteristics
Your pet doesn’t care what happened yesterday or what’s going to happen tomorrow. They are focused on the “now” and embrace a blithe attitude – something that you can apply in your own life.
Instead of dwelling too much on unchangeable aspects of life, start to worry less, adopt a carefree frame of mind, and just live in the moment. Through that, you’ll reduce bemoaning the past and fretting about the future and just be more mindful and appreciative of the joy of the present.
Aside from that, other valuable characteristics you can learn and take to your heart from animals include trust, patience, responsibility, openness, and companionship.
8. They can improve eating habits
If you have tried eating alongside bad company, you know how it can quickly decrease your appetite no matter how delicious the food is. Be wary that undereating poses many negative impacts on your body, such as symptoms of fatigue, feeling cold, a weaker immune system, slow digestion, obsessive thoughts, intense food cravings, and being easily irritated or stressed. On the other hand, eating in the company of your pet can help improve your eating habits. Research has shown that the companionship of animals motivates people to eat and better their eating patterns, even if it’s just a fish tank in the room.
9. They add structure and routine to your day
Your pets require a regular schedule in terms of feeding, sleeping, exercising, and spending quality with their people. A consistent routine immensely helps in physical, emotional, and mental well-being, as it keeps them balanced and calm. What’s great is that the routine can also do wonders for you.
Instead of just staring blankly at the ceiling and your thoughts wandering on the negative spectrum of life, a plaintive look from your pet will remind you that you have to get up, play with them, feed them, or take them to the park.
Keeping such a routine with your pet helps you plan your other activities in line with your pet’s schedule. It helps you keep things organized and make situations appear more controllable and predictable, as you can also see clearly when things go out of hand. In turn, all that reduces stress and anxiety and rather gives you more time to relax.
10. They encourage exercise
If you own a dog, you’re required to regularly play with them or bring them outside for walks to keep them healthy and supple, as well as reduce behavioral problems like excessive digging, licking, barking, chewing, and other anxiety-linked behaviors.
Take note that such activities serve as a kind of exercise for you as well, and in nearly all of its forms, exercise is a great stress reliever, given that being active raises your feel-good endorphins and keeps your mind away from your daily worries. Not to mention that exercising also helps improve your sleep, mood, and overall mental health as going outside also allows you to get vital fresh air and to connect with nature.
11. They’re a source of comfort
Are there too many documents to review on your desk? Does your favorite shirt you intend to wear at the party no longer fits you? Did you burn the cheesecake you’re preparing for your mother’s birthday? Life can sometimes be awful and stressful, but that bad feeling can easily go away once your cat rubs against your legs or your puppy’s loving eyes meet yours. Trust us, a warm hug to your pet is super comforting and will brighten up your mood quicker than the morning sun.
12. They offer unconditional love
Your pet will always be there for you in ways that some people can’t. They don’t care how you look, how you smell, or what perfume or clothes you’re wearing – they simply want to be around you. They enjoy listening to your long stories at the end of the day, but they will also relish those comfortable silences. They will be happy to stay with you on your bad day but will also be glad to be your binge buddy on a Netflix weekend marathon.
Your pet is your respite from your worldly problems and your best antidote to combat sadness. No matter who walks in or out of your life, expect that your pet is just waiting in the corner without any judgment, just overflowing with unconditional love for you.
13. They’re a constant source of entertainment
Lastly, your pet will make you roll in stitches, and laughter is another fantastic way to relieve stress. Whether it’s your curious cat, your dog with hilarious antics, or your parrot with newly-learned funny words, you’ll never get bored watching their unique personalities and amusing habits. It’s little surprise that they’re the main characters in some of the funniest home videos you can see online. So, grab your smartphone and start filming them whenever they’re onto something comic. That way, you can rewatch the scene, relive that giggle, and prove why having a pet makes life a whole lot happier.
Can You Enjoy the Same Stress-Reduction Benefits From Any Pet?
Though dogs and cats are clearly the most popular pets in homes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should own a dog or cat if you want to enjoy the same stress-reduction benefits.
All kinds of pets, including reptiles, fish, rabbits, birds, and even rats, can be your companion, decrease stress, and enrich your life. So, even if your pet isn’t furry or Instragrammable, you can definitely reap amazing stress-relieving perks for taking care of an animal.
Just be wary that a pet prescription for stress isn’t for everyone. Having a pet entails additional work and responsibility that can also incur its own stresses. Only get a pet if you know you can commit to taking care of them throughout their lifetime and can appreciate all the benefits and all the drawbacks.
Rest assured that having a pet best friend can provide you with that much-needed support and alleviate stress in your life as long as you also know how to keep them happy and healthy – a win-win situation for you and your beloved pet.