Pets can help you both physically and mentally more than you know. They can elevate your mood and make you healthier in terms of your mental well-being. Also, you may not notice it, but they can help you with your physical health, too. A walk in the park with your dog gives you a lot of exercise even without you realizing it. There are many other ways that pets can be good for your health.
Pets get you outside.
Walking your dog, for example, is not just about you letting your pet loose around the park. It’s also about you getting outside and experiencing all the healthy stuff that the outdoors can offer. Make sure that you take your dog for a walk regularly, or bring your cat outside, or bond with your pet in the outdoors. You never know how much healthier you can be when you engage outside with your pets.
Doing these outdoor activities like walking your dog, playing fetch, or tossing a Frisbee gives you a natural energy boost. It also allows you to let off steam and bring your heart rate to a healthier level. Additionally, doing so makes you more physically fit than you would otherwise be, strengthening your muscles and bones, and helping not only your body, but also your self-esteem.
Studies have shown that animal owners, both adults and children, generally have lower blood pressure, as well as lower cholesterol and triglycerides, which may be in part attributed to the more active lifestyle pets promote. Pet owners also have been noted to have better blood circulation, and a lower risk of experiencing major cardiac issues. Ultimately, when your body feels stronger, you are less susceptible to mental health issues.
In the same way, fresh air from the outside can help you by elevating your mood, while sunlight gives you an extra dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D exposure helps fight physical and mental conditions which includes depression, cancer, obesity, and heart attacks. Also, when you go outside with your pet, you are engaging with nature. Try taking a moment to listen to the trees rustling, feel the wind rushing past, and the sun upon your face. The sounds of nature can be incredibly calming.
Pets help lower blood pressure
Companion animals are also scientifically proven to improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and regulating the heart rate during stressful situations. Scientists measured in a study the changes in heart rate and blood pressure among people who had a dog or cat, compared to those who did not. Based on its results, when participants were under stress (performing a timed math task), people with a dog or cat have had lower resting heart rates and blood pressure measures at the beginning of the experiment than non-pet owners.
Of course, having a generally lower blood pressure is definitely good for one’s physical well-being.
In the same study, scientists also found out that people with a dog or cat were also less likely to have spikes in heart rates and blood pressure while performing math tasks, and their heart rates and blood pressure returned to normal more quickly. They also made fewer errors in their math when their pet was present in the room. All these findings indicated that having a dog or cat lowered the risk of heart disease while lowering stress, which, overall, led to the improvement of their performance.
In a similar manner, children who have pets early on have shown to be healthy and less likely to develop mental illnesses. Children’s exposure to companion animals may also ease anxiety.
For example, one study measured blood pressure, heart rate, and behavioral distress in healthy children aged 3 to 6 at two different doctor visits for routine physicals. At one visit, a dog (unrelated to the child) was present in the room and at the other visit the dog was absent. When the dog was present, children had lower blood pressure measures, lower heart rates, and less behavioral distress.
Pets can help lessen allergies and asthma, and build immunity.
This one may sound counterintuitive, but children who grow up in homes with furry friends are actually less likely to develop common allergies.
Studies have shown that children who were exposed to two or more dogs or cats as babies were less than half as likely to develop allergies, including dust, grass, ragweed, and pet allergies, and were at a lower risk for asthma. Compared to babies born into cat-free homes, those who grew up with cats were roughly half as likely to be allergic to them as teenagers, the study found. Growing up around a dog reduced the risk of dog allergies.
Furthermore, allergies can cause people to become lethargic, apathetic, and suffer from insomnia, which can make them more vulnerable to mental health issues, such as depression.
In terms of mental health, pets can surely lessen loneliness.
If you don’t like to be alone, pets can be great domestic companions. Often, pets are very intuitive and will seek you out when you’re feeling down. Sometimes, they go as far as to refuse to allow you to be alone. Just make sure you can fully care for and love a pet before you take a dog or cat home.
Knowing your pets is more than just creating custom pet tags for them. It’s also about having that intimate relationship where you can really connect with the emotions of your pet.
Scientific findings suggest that the social support a pet provides can make a person feel more relaxed and less stressed. Social support from friends and family can have similar benefits, but interpersonal relationships often cause stress as well, whereas pets may be less likely to cause such emotional strain.
The social support provided by a pet might also encourage more social interactions with people, reducing feelings of isolation or loneliness. For example, walking with a dog has been found to increase social interaction, especially with strangers, as compared to walking without a dog.
They can also help in being distracted from additional stress. Being present and engaged with your pet takes your thoughts off of the issues that are currently plaguing you. When you are fully in the moment, you are not worrying about the past or the future. It’s just you and your pet. Another way to keep yourself distracted and present with your furry friend is to take photos or videos of his or her cute antics.
Pets can also help give you a sense of purpose.
People suffering from certain mental illnesses may find lacking a sense of purpose to be a gateway to even bigger and more depressing mental problems. This is highly possible for people at a young age. However, having a pet and being responsible for its wellbeing could give a high sense of purpose for humans. This then helps build up the confidence that one needs when growing up.
Having a pet to care for can also give you a feeling of purpose, which can be crucial when you are feeling really down and overwhelmed by negative thoughts. By caring for your pet, or another person or animal in need, you are focusing on something other than yourself and your life. Your good deeds, and your pet’s positive response, can give you a feeling of instant gratification.