Our desire to keep animals is not just a frivolity and is no co-incidence. We have an instinct for keeping animals because they genuinely add value, happiness and wellbeing to our lives.
Humans have always had a close relationship with animals. The reasons are various depending on where and when we are referring to; for wealth, for food, for milk, for status. These days, the main reason for keeping animals in our homes is essentially because we just love having them around. Of course, it helps that animals, cats and dogs especially, seem to like being around us too. It is this kinship that make our pets one of the most efficient and lovable mediators of our wellbeing! So, how do they do it?
1. Reduce Stress
There are countless studies out there that prove pets reduce stress. In fact, they have been proven to considerably lower the stress hormone known as cortisol. Animals do not judge, so by providing us with non-judgemental affection and social support, they absorb the effects of stressful events and negative emotions. This is great for resilience through a stressful week or an ongoing tricky situation.
2. Feel-good Chemicals
Engaging with your pet is a multi-sensory experience. A positive sensory experience can affect anything from muscle relaxation to anxiety elimination. They can help you sleep, make it easier to work, inspire you to be productive or spur you on to socialise. The act of simply looking into your pet’s eyes or watching them go about their business can release hormones directly associated with physical and mental relaxation; oxytocin and prolactin. Dopamine can even make its way into your system if you give your pet a good squeeze or stroke, this is a great chemical if you are looking for a little serenity. You ongoing wellbeing is bound to improve if these chemicals are making a regular appearance in your body.
If you acquire a pet, you have to look after it! It’s health, happiness and wellbeing are your responsibility. Purpose is a big part of what gives our lives meaning. Having an animal to look after means cleaning up after them, feeding them, playing with them; and so, you have a reason to get up in the morning, to go outside, to be productive. If a lack of purpose and challenge is something you are struggling with, then getting a pet might be a great gateway into finding those things.
4. Social Contact
Pets improve social life on many levels. Do you talk to your animals? I know I do. We bought home two cats last year, as very often either my wife or I are away for long periods of time. Having a living thing to come home to and communicate with in some way gives our wellbeing and quality of life a huge boost. You are always coming home to a friend.
Animals also make great conversation starters. Apparently, around 50% of people in the UK keep animals. If you meet a stranger it is pretty likely you are going to be able to bond over an animal doing cute things or funny stuff, because they have pets as well. Any dog owner will tell you that there is a whole community out there that they are part of just through the daily dog walk.
Pets help you to build relationships; both with them and other people!
If you are looking for a moment of presence, just watch your pet for a bit. Engaging with your pet’s activity, with their funny and simple lives, will take your mind off anything that is on your mind. They are a great shortcut to mindfulness and presence, you often won’t even notice that you are practicing them.
Animals are just the best. You see if you can help but smile when a cat comes and purrs on your lap, or the dog greets you with uncontrollable excitement when you come through the front door. Pets, quite simply, make us happy. The symbiosis between us and our animals is a proven source of joy and contentment. A co-dependent relationship that is wonderful for the state of your wellbeing, and your animal’s.
By Chris Thomson
There are plenty of other great ways to reduce stress. Here are 10 you might want to try: 10 Easy Ways to Help Reduce Stress
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