Is your dog better for your health than your (human) loved ones?
Maybe. One study showed people have the lowest stress response and quickest recovery in a stressful situation when they’re with their pet rather than their spouse or a friend.
Self-medicating with your Siamese is a real thing. Research shows interacting with animals can decrease the stress hormone cortisol and lower blood pressure — plus reduce loneliness and boost mood.
Those are some of the reasons many people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder — military veterans, disaster survivors, abuse victims — rely on service dogs. And nursing homes have long used therapy dogs to help calm and soothe residents.
More ways your pet can help you decompress:
- Exercise. Pet owners tend to be more active, and taking Fido for a walk benefits both your body and mind.
- Laughter. If you can keep from smiling while a kitten wrestles with the inside of a paper bag, you really are The Grinch. Laughter is proven to boost not only your mood but also your health.
- Love. Few human relationships can rival the unconditional love of a pet.
Allergic to fur or pet dander? Get fishy. Visiting an aquarium or just watching Goldie swim in your home fish bowl can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
If you can’t have pets where you live — or are away from home too much to commit to their care — you can still reap the benefits of animal interaction. Visit a zoo or aquarium, volunteer at the local animal shelter or let your neighbors know you’re available for dog-walking services.
And in a real pinch, there are always cat videos online to make you smile.