After a long, stressful day I always look forward to coming home and seeing my dog, Bean. The first thing that I do when I walk in the door is put down my things, call her name, and embrace her as she showers me with her love and kisses. Almost immediately, I can feel the stress of my day melt away. My racing thoughts begin to quiet, and I can feel the tension evaporating from my muscles as I lay next to her bed and pet her. These moments with her are some of my favorite spent with her.
When I adopted Bean several years ago, I was going through an extremely difficult transition period. If I am being honest with myself, Bean was my rock the entire time. Bean was there at my lowest moments and she kept me sane and healthy. Bean was always there whenever I had a bad day and whether I need to cry or scream I could always count on her to pick me up off of the ground.
Bean was also a wonderful distraction from the stressors of everyday life. Suddenly, I found myself responsible for the well being of another creature. There wasn’t room for me to slack or break down. It was up to me to ensure that she ate, and she walked, and she played and that she loved her life with me as much as possible. Because of Bean I began to slowly fall back in love with my own life as well.
Bean kept me healthy and she kept me happy.
Pet’s can truly work wonders on our health. In fact, the very first body of research on the mental health benefits of owning pets found that when we pet a friendly dog our blood pressures goes down, our heart rate slows, our breathing becomes more regular, and our muscles relax. And because scientists have learned more about the amazing health benefits of pets, we know have something called animal assisted therapy and emotional support dogs.
But dogs aren’t the only animals that can work wonders on our mental health. Dogs, cats, horeses, and rabbits have all been used to improve and assist in mental health treatment!
Owning a pet can be stressful at times. Vet bills can be expensive and we worry endlessly when our pets fall ill, but in the end the benefits on our health really do outweigh any of the cons.
Here are just some of the amazing ways that pets improve our health:
They lower our stress hormones.
Research has found that interacting with animals can reduce those pesky stress hormones, such as cortisol, in as little as five minutes! And not only do they lower our stress hormones, but they increase our happy hormones too!
Pets increase our sense of self-esteem.
Pet ownership can lead to increased self-esteem and increased physical fitness. I can certainly attest to this! Owning dogs means a lot of walks and so I have never been in better shape in my life! Owning Bean has also exponentially improved my confidence. It takes a lot of work to own a dog and watching myself vault over all the hurdles put in my way has showed me just how capable and strong I am.
Pets can help us recover from mental illness.
Pets help us manage our emotions and distract from mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. Pets can serve as a strong, integral part of our support group-even though they can’t talk to us. How amazing is that?
Pets help us maintain healthy habits.
Pets help us curb the bad habits and develop new, healthy habits. For instance, our pets ensure that we have regular exercise (going for walks or horse back riding, for example). They also help us to wake up earlier (let’s face it you must budget plenty of time each morning for pet care) and promote our own healthy behaviors to better care for ourselves.
Pets help us maintain our own relationships and foster social connections.
Owning animals certainly makes making new friends easier. Just think of how many people approach you when you’re walking your dog! Our pets are also a great conversation topic.
Those social connections we make through our pets then lead to better mental health, less anxiety, and better self esteem.
Pets love us.
There is nothing more powerful than unconditional love. To be loved is to be happy and healthy. The love our pets give us may be the greatest thing that they can ever offer us.
Want to read more about how pets improve our mental health? Check out this awesome article from Newport Academy.
How do your pets keep you healthy?