Animals can lift our spirits whenever we are depressed, stressed, worried, or unsure of how to handle challenges life throws our way. Why else would there be thousands of cat and dog videos on YouTube?
Animal lovers know all too well the joy of having a companion animal as part of their lives. However, the pleasure of snuggling up to a furry friend can also come with physical and mental health benefits.
Here’s how caring for a dog, cat, or another animal can help relieve depression and anxiety, lower stress, and improve your heart health.
Interacting with any animal (including fish, yes fish!) has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and reduce depression. Observations have also shown that interacting with animals increases hormone oxytocin levels. Oxytocin has a number of health benefits. It slows a person’s heart rate and breathing, reduces blood pressure, and inhibits the production of stress hormones. This helps create a feeling of calm and comfort.
The body uses oxytocin for a number of functions, including healing, cell growth, and so forth. It gives us the ability to be in a state where we are prepared to heal and grow new cells. Besides providing physical healing, oxytocin also promotes emotional healing by making us feel happy, encourages trust, and promotes bonds with our pets, all of which help explain why we literally fall in love with them!
Our furry buddies give us joy one paw at a time, so let's dig into how exactly they do so.
Animals have evolved to become incredibly attuned to human behaviour and emotions. Dogs, for example, can understand a lot of the words we use, but they're even better at reading our tone of voice, our facial expressions, and our body language. As with any good human friend, a loyal dog will try to discern what's on your mind and heart by looking into your eyes.
Besides improving our mental health, the company of a pet, especially a dog or a cat, reduces loneliness, encourages exercise and playfulness, and even improves cardiovascular health.
There is some truth to the claim that people with pets tend to be in better health than those without, as studies have shown that:
Depression is less prevalent among people who own pets than among those who do not.
The blood pressure of people with pets is lower in stressful situations than it is for those without pets.
Interacting with a pet can elevate your levels of serotonin and dopamine, which will calm and relax you.
There is a lowered risk of heart disease among pet owners, as measured by triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
The therapeutic effects of pets are due in part to their ability to fulfil our need for touch. The act of hugging, scratching, or otherwise touching an animal can instantly reduce your stress and anxiety.
The benefits of pets for older adults
Apart from providing companionship, a pet can be a vital factor in promoting a healthy ageing process by helping you to:
Find meaning and joy in life - With age, you'll lose things that previously occupied your time and gave your life meaning. A pet can give you a sense of self-worth, optimism, and boost your morale.
The decision to adopt a pet from a shelter, especially an older one, can make you feel fulfilled in knowing that you have made a positive impact on an animal that would have otherwise been euthanized.
Stay connected - With age, maintaining a social network can be a challenge. It can be difficult to make new friends when we lose our friends or family due to retirement, illness, or relocation. The company of pets, especially dogs, is a great way to spark up a conversation and meet new people.
Boost your vitality -Taking good care of yourself can help you to overcome many of the challenges associated with ageing. Dogs, cats, and other pets promote playfulness, laughter, and exercise, which boosts the immune system, and increases energy.
The benefits of pets for children
A dog or cat can teach children responsibility, compassion, and empathy. It's always a pleasure to have pets around the house. They're loving and never criticizing. Their mere presence can help children feel secure. When mom and dad are away, children can benefit from the presence of a pet to ease separation anxiety.
Pets can be a great companion for a child and can help them develop a positive self-image and sense of self-worth.
The ability to build relationships with other people is better when kids are emotionally connected to their pets.
By fostering empathy and understanding in children, a pet can encourage the growth of their minds. Children can express their feelings to their pets without fear of rejection, giving them confidence as well as expanding their vocabulary.
As with adults, children can benefit from playing with a pet. They provide calmness and relaxation as well as stimulate the brain and body. A child's interaction with a pet can be a gateway to learning. It can stimulate the child's imagination and curiosity.
An animal can make children more secure and stimulate their sense of adventure. Pets are also a valuable source of companionship for older adults. Most importantly, taking care of a furry friend can also offer another benefit to any “hooman”: Immense Joy and unconditional love!
However, despite the benefits of owning a pet, it is only beneficial to those who love and appreciate them and have the time, money, and resources necessary to ensure the health and happiness of the pet.