It might not always be easy to care for a pet, but most pet owners find that having a pet is worthwhile and extremely rewarding. Did you know that there are proven health benefits that come with having a pet?
The benefits of having a pet are unparalleled. Not only does research show that having a pet makes people happier, but it also improves overall emotional wellness. This includes stress reduction, less anxiety, and decreased depression.
In addition, pet ownership has been linked with some serious physical benefits, including improved immunity, lower blood pressure, and decreased risk of stroke and heart attack.
The following are seven benefits of owning a pet that proves just how valuable your furry friends can be.
The Benefits of Pets: 7 Ways Owning a Pet Improves Wellness
1. Pets Improve Your Mood
Have you ever noticed that just being around your pet can make you feel better? When I come home from being gone 30 minutes to several hours, our lab is at the door ready to greet me. He weaves himself back and forth by my knees then falls to the ground for a belly rub. At that point, I forget about everything else because of how happy he is to see. If you’re a dog owner, I’m sure you’ve experienced the same. Whether we’re sad, angry or just plain upset, our pets have a way of making us feel better.
Research shows that simply petting our animals can make us feel better. Petting a dog, for example, releases all sorts of “feel-goods” including serotonin and oxytocin (the love hormone). Simply gazing into your dog’s eyes for five minutes increases oxytocin levels in both you and your canine companion, something researchers suggest offers a solid reason as to why humans and dogs share such a special bond.
2. Pets Reduce Stress
In addition to improving your mood, having a pet can help reduce stress. Research shows that interacting with animals decreases levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone connected to the body’s physiological stress responses.
Simply thinking about your pet can alleviate feelings of stress. A framed picture of your pet on your desk at the office or on the home screen of your phone may aid you in overcoming everyday stress.
3. Pets Encourage Exercise
Do you feel the need to get outside and exercise? Having a dog can help. Research shows that people with pets, dogs in particular, are more active and get more exercise. They also tend to enjoy all the health benefits that go along with a more active lifestyle. What’s more, dog owners are more likely to walk at a faster pace or with more intensity than people who don’t own pets.
According to research from Purdue University, dogs motivate us to exercise are a “great strategy to promote physical activity.” Dogs can be just the motivation one needs to get out and get moving!
4. Pets Decrease Feelings of Loneliness
When you have a pet, you’re never truly alone. One of the biggest benefits of having a pet is that they’re your best friend. They listen without judgment, cuddle affectionately, and serve as an unwaveringly loyal domestic companion.
Research shows that for those who live alone, having a pet can decrease feelings of loneliness and compensate for the absence of human companionship. You can talk to your pets and they’re just going to love you. You can cuddle with or pet them and they’re not going to pull away. The human-animal bond we share with our pets offers an unconditional love that can combat feeling alone.
Pets can also help decrease feeling lonely after the loss of a loved one. Oftentimes, losing someone close to us may cause our us to feel a sense of purpose. A pet might help offset some of those feelings. It makes sense to think, ‘Well at least this pet still needs me. I can take care of it. I can love it and it appreciates me.’”
5. Pets Increase Opportunities to Socialize
If you’re on the introverted side or find it difficult to interact with others, a pet can make it easier to socialize with other people. Pets do more than provide loyal companionship. One of the benefits of pets is that they can also help people increase their social support and form new friendships. I’ve been able to meet neighbors who are now friends just by walking our dog!
Simply put, pets make it much easier to socialize with other people and makes it much easier to strike up a conversation with someone.
6. Pets Boost Self-Esteem
Individuals who possess a high sense of self-esteem tend to look at themselves in a more positive manner and experience a higher sense of self-worth. If you suffer from low self-esteem, having a pet could help. Research shows that pet owners are more likely to report having higher self-esteem than people who don’t own pets.
The human-animal bond between children and pets is huge when it comes to increasing self-esteem. Research shows, for example, that both primary- and middle-school-aged children who have pets show higher scores of self-esteem than children that don’t experience this bond.
Another study that investigated the long-term effects of having a pet found that dog owners showed a significant improvement in self-esteem 10 months after acquiring their pet. It seems the closer your bond with your pet, the more likely you are to feel a boost in confidence.
7. Pets Give You a Sense of Purpose
Taking care of another living being is a huge responsibility and long-term commitment that requires a lot of your time and attention, but a pet offers a sense of purpose unlike anything else. Think about it. Our pets rely on us for absolutely everything, from getting them water and food to taking them out to exercise. Even the small act of giving your dog a tasty treat can instill a sense of purpose and be an affirming and positive experience.
The human-animal bond is one that offers more than simple companionship. It’s a bond that can inspire our lives with purpose, making them rich with meaning.
As you’ve read, it’s easy to see that there are remarkable benefits to be found in the human-animal bond. While it might not always be easy to care for our animals, the benefits of having a pet are both rewarding and extremely worthwhile. Not only does having a pet increase your happiness but it makes you mentally and physically healthier overall.
Having a sense of purpose is the driving force behind a life filled with meaning and happiness. A pet can help give you this sense of purpose, increase your happiness, plus help you mentally and physically. You may even feel healthier overall!