There’s something so relaxing about having a cat or dog on your lap, gently stroking their soft fur as they nuzzle into your body. We’re certainly a nation of pet lovers; according to statistics for the year 2017/18, 45 percent of the UK population own a pet and 90 percent of British owners say having a pet increases their happiness. Whether your animal friend is a dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig or goldfish – sharing your home with a pet is more often than not a peaceful experience and makes life a little less stressful. But why is this, and how can an animal have such a huge effect on our ability to relax?
Here’s 6 reasons why pets help us feel calm…
A 2016 study by the British Red Cross and Co-Op found nearly a fifth of the UK’s population often feel lonely. No wonder then that so many people choose to own a pet for company. Stroking or playing with a dog, for instance, can lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boost oxytocin levels (happy feelings), making us feel more at ease and positive.
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If you suffer from high blood pressure, finding ways to relax is really important. Spending time with your favourite type of pet is a wonderful way to let go of life’s worries and be in the moment, thus lowering your blood pressure levels.
Dog owners are surely some of the fittest members of society, with many stepping out twice a day to exercise their canine friends. Breeds such as labradors, huskies and collies need regular lengthy walks which will keep you fit too – and exercise is known to produce stress-busing endorphins in the body.
People prone to feeling down or negative thinking are helped by having to focus on the wellbeing of their pet, instead of their own problems. This distraction lifts the mood and leads to a more positive outlook.
The South Boston Animal Hospital cites research by Dr. Alan M. Beck into how pets relieve stress. One way is through physical touch, and a recent article in Psychology Today shows that touch builds trust, helps the immune system and lessens the feelings of stress.
Pets can do the funniest things. Ever seen a dog barking at their own reflection or running in their dreams? These moments really make us chuckle – and benefit our health. A good giggle produces endorphins and relaxes the whole body, banishing feelings of stress.
How we feel about ourselves has a huge part to play in our stress levels. A brilliant thing about pets is that they love you unconditionally for who you are and many are very affectionate, thus boosting feelings of self-esteem. Some animals, particularly dogs, seem to have a sixth sense for when you are feeling low and can be more attentive than usual.
So it’s a fact: pets are good for you!