More than half of all American households care for at least one pet. That’s more than 300 million pets nationwide! The cycle of love, entertainment, companionship, and nurturing results in their continued care. But is that what’s truly at the core of pet care (an industry that spends upwards of $40 billion each year)?
Sure, pet owners give combinations of affection, time, and money, but it’s what we get in return that’s the backbone of the whole enterprise. Welcome to our special edition of pets and stress relief.
Increased Health and Happiness
It may seem like a tall order for anyone, but animals have proven to boost our health and happiness. The reasons for this vary on a case by case basis, but general pet ownership fosters numerous healthy behaviors. Taking care of someone else’s needs makes us feel needed, and connecting to feelings of responsibility help toward overall success.
Plus, many pets require daily exercise, forcing an owner (more or less) off the couch and down the block. Engaging in healthy activities boosts self-esteem and confidence. While we’re out and about, we also have the chance to positively interact with others. Disabled pet owners (such as those who are wheelchair-bound with a companion dog) experience valuable attention from others, as if the dog is a type of magnet.
Research indicates the dynamic between pets and stress relief is potent. Closeness with an animal reduces harmful neurochemicals (such as the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked to depression and anxiety) and replaces them with healthy hormones like oxytocin.
Studies on blood pressure patients point to the significant impact between pets and stress relief. In fact, pet owners with high blood pressure are more successful at keeping calm during a stressful event. Coincidence? Nope!
Pets and Stress Relief for Seniors
It’s difficult to maintain relationships throughout life, but it’s especially challenging for seniors. A pet offers constant, consistent social stimulation and has a positive effect on depression, boredom, and loneliness.
While we can attest to the myriad benefits regarding pets and stress relief, research shows that even brief encounters between people and animals can increase happiness. In fact, patients about to undergo treatment were allowed to visit with (and become distracted by) animals beforehand, and their decreased anxiety levels were astonishing. Endorphins and dopamine have been shown to surge after just 5 minutes with an animal.
Feel the Love
Pets are non-judgmental, affectionate, and even intuitive to our moods and special needs. A majority of pet owners view their pets as best friends, and a whopping 97 percent talk to their pets. Whether we’re just talking about the weather or pouring our hearts out, the point is that our pets are there for us in whatever way we need them to be.
All Have Value
While we could expound on the virtues of furry pets and stress relief all day, they aren’t the only animals that impact our health. Even gazing at an aquarium for 20-30 minutes a day is a formidable calming method that has similar results.
If you have additional questions about the power of pets and stress relief, please contact us.