How Having a Pet Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety

words Alexa Wang

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The coronavirus pandemic caused major lifestyle changes among all of us. Going out and meeting with friends and relatives is almost impossible to do. This lack of human interaction is worsening the stress already brought by the virus.

Owning a pet comes with some emotional health benefits. Most pet owners are definitive about the instant happiness they feel of having shared their lives with an animal as their companion. Many of us may be unaware of the mental health benefits that come with the pleasure of just petting or snuggling up to a furry friend.

Pets have been seen to have adopted a sense of attachment to humans and our behavior and emotions. For example, dogs can pick up the words we use, and they are even better when they interpret our tone of voice, gestures, and body language. And like a good friend, a dog is a loyal pet that can look into your eyes and gauge your emotional state and try to understand what you are deeply feeling and thinking.

Pets like cats and dogs lessen stress, anxiety, depression, reduce loneliness, motivate exercise and playfulness, and improve cardiovascular movements with physical activities. Owning and caring for an animal can help a child grow up active and secure. Pets also give a beneficial companionship for older adults.

Significant Health and Mood-Boosting Benefits of Having a Pet

People with pets experience great health benefits. Read how having a pet relieves stress, anxiety, lower stress levels, and improves health overall.

Interacting with Pets Decreases Stress Hormones

Studies made with pets and mental health show that playing with and petting animals reduces stress-related hormones. This benefit happens when we interact with a pet. Therefore, pets can also be very helpful for people diagnosed with anxiety.

Serotonin and dopamine increase when one plays with a dog or a cat. These two hormones calm and relax the nervous system, especially when we smile or laugh at our pet’s adorable behavior. This process helps stimulate what we call “happy hormones.”

Moreover, interacting with a dog or a cat reduces the stress hormones or the levels of cortisol. It also increases the amount of oxytocin, a chemical in the body that naturally reduces stress. That is why most therapists apply animal-assisted therapy to reduce stress and anxiety.

In addition, the sensory act of stroking a pet shows that it has a significant effect on lowering blood pressure, therefore reducing stress. Sensory integration movements with pets can also help children with autism to feel calm when they feel, smell, or hear the sound of an animal. Studies even show that dogs can help a child with aggression or hyperactivity.

Pets Help Childhood Anxiety

According to a study established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a pet cat or dog may help a child with anxiety. However, these health benefits are not exclusively from cats and dogs. There are other household pets that give the same benefit.

In one study, where a total of 643 children participated, almost half of the children have pets in their homes. In this study, the researchers recorded the children’s body mass index, anxiety levels, and physical activity, as well as the time they spend in front of a screen.

The result of the study showed that the children who participated, whether or not they have pets, had the same BMI, amount of physical activity, and screen time. However, their anxiety levels differ. Twenty-one percent of the participants who did not have pets tested positive for the anxiety screening test, while only 12 percent with pets tested positive for anxiety.

Therefore, it indicates that having a pet can be beneficial to regulating one’s stress and anxiety. This shows that a child who grows up with pets may have a greater chance of becoming a healthy and happy teen.

Pets and Depression

Having a pet dog or a cat brings motivation for a lot of people. Dogs, especially, are great at supporting and encouraging their owners to get exercise or do physical activities. These are considered to be beneficial to those with depression.

Pets have a calming effect just by being with them. Caring for a pet gives a valuable purpose, reward, and even sense of achievement. This feeling gives comfortability and security.

Walking a dog can also help one socialize as it often leads to a conversation with other dog owners, allowing them to be active and stay connected socially. People can become mentally healthier and less withdrawn once social relationships are consistent.

Recommended Activities for Pets and Owners

Following the pandemic guidelines, there are still multiple activities that can be done with your pets. Here are some:

  • Hiking and walking. Going out in nature and breathing fresh air is not only beneficial for you, but also for your pets. If you live close to a mountain or a large park, you can enjoy that activity while keeping distance from everyone else.
  • Car rides. You can take your pets when making essential errands. If allowed, perhaps you can have them tag along just for some change of scenery.
  • Playing games or creating obstacle courses. Different pets require different games. It’s fun to test your pet’s intelligence and creativity in going through those activities you prepare for them. Perhaps, you can teach them some tricks while playing.
  • Cuddles. What better way to relax than to cuddle with your favorite animal companion. Turn on your favorite TV program, have a snack ready for you and your pet and just lie down on your bed or sofa together.

Takeaway

Having a pet can be a great source of companionship, comfort, and motivation for owners. There are many ways that pets help us to live a healthier life, both mentally and emotionally. Both children and adults can benefit from playing with pets, which can provide a sense of calmness and relaxation and a mental health boost.

If you have decided to own a pet, you will be about to open to a life of rewarding companionship. It’s without a doubt that pets tend to create a happier, more independent, and secure individual.

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