At the beginning of each new year, lots of people resolve to reduce the stress levels in their lives. But in today's busy world, that can be a bit of a challenge! Fortunately for us pet lovers, people with pets have a head start in this area. Several studies show that people with pets are generally calmer and healthier. But how exactly does a pet help you relax?
1. A pet forces you to get moving
Do you ever have one of those days where you sit around and watch Netflix or tv? Those days can leave you feeling languid and listless. With a pet around, days like those are a lot less likely to happen. A dog is sure to get you out of the house at least a few times a day and most cats love to play and cuddle.
Walkies and playtime are not only essential for your pets, but it’ll get you moving as well. Exercise is not only good for your physical health, but it also has a positive effect on mental health. By exercising every day, you reduce stress and the risk of depression. When you exercise, your brain releases two chemicals: BDNF and endorphins. Both support the hippocampus of the brain. In turn, the hippocampus ensures lower cortisol production (that’s the stress hormone).
Another thing: A walk around the park with your pooch is the ideal moment to let go of the issues of the day. Leave your phone at home (or turn it off) and focus completely on your dog. This way, walking the dog is not only a healthy outing but also a good way to strengthen the bond between you and your pup. Take this opportunity to teach your dog new things, or perhaps to meet fellow dog owners.
It is possible to teach your cat to go out for a walk, as long as you are sure they enjoy it and are happily walking along. Do you live somewhere where your cat can’t go out safely by themselves, or do you have a new cat that you want to help acclimatize to a new environment? With a special cat harness, your cat can safely enjoy the great outdoors. Don’t forget, just like a dog; the cat will need some time to get used to the harness.
2. Pets help you to live in the moment
Much stress is caused by things that have already happened or worries about things that may or may not happen in the future. Pets don't have a sense of yesterday or tomorrow: they live in the here and now. They are hungry now or want to be let out now. Playing or cuddling with their human is not something they plan, but something they will suddenly feel like.
Is your cat taking a stroll on your keyboard? Is your dog invading your personal space by shoving their head on your lap? Don't push them away, but take a moment to give them a lovely cuddle. Is it times for zoomies? Join them and play. By being silly, you can forget your worries about yesterday and tomorrow.
3. Pets provide routine
Whether you're busy or on holiday: pets have a daily routine. They want food, go for walkies, or be let out at set times. By sticking to this routine, you’ll nurture a calm and happy pet. But these routine chores can also give humans a little peace of mind. You may not always feel like feeding them or taking walks, but consider how happy you are making them. This realization brings peace in your own life. So even if you have a deadline the next day, take some time for your pet and with that some time for yourself.
4. You’ll never be lonely
A pet is a partner for life. They are always happy when you come home from work at night, and they love spending time with you: The more the better! You’ll always have someone to love and take care of, someone that’ll always be deeply appreciative of what you do for them. This can help lonely people to feel needed and loved.
When you are hoping to make new friends, a dog is an excellent way to do so! During walkies, you’ll always meet people to chat with, especially when your dogs like each other. You may also meet new people at the puppy training or the pet shop. When you have moved to a new city, adopting a dog may be a great move for you, to quickly build a new circle of acquaintances.
5. Pets give great cuddles
Pets will rarely say no to cuddles. Did you know petting doesn’t only benefit the animal, but the owner as well? Research shows touch reduces stress. Touch helps with building bonds of trust, whether that is with an animal or a human. Petting also raises oxytocin levels, the happiness hormone.
6. Pets are lots of laughs
One of the reasons videos of cats and dogs being silly are so popular is that pets make us laugh. From a gentle smile and an 'aaaw' when you see a cute puppy, to belly laughs caused by your cat running around the house like a mad bull.
Did you know that laughing is one of the best medications against stress? A sudden burst of laughter lowers the mental and bodily tension in your body that was generated by stress, helping you to feel wonderfully relaxed afterwards. In the long term, the positive feelings generated by laughter can contribute to a healthier immune system. So the more you laugh about and with your pet, the better you will feel!
7. You’ll play more
How often do adults take time to play, especially when they don't have children? Probably not that often, even though play is incredibly important! During play, your brain releases oxytocin and serotonin, the so-called happiness hormones that help reduce stress. Moreover, free play stimulates creative thinking, gets you moving, and most importantly, makes you happy. And who else likes to play? Exactly: our pets.
Your pet does a lot for you. They are a buddy for life, playmate, the life of the party, stress therapist and work-out friend, all in a compact, furry and four-legged package. So we think your kitty or pup has earned an extra cuddle and snack, don’t you agree? 😉