Pets can be our best friends, and coming home to a happy animal after a long day can be a source of comfort and stress relief. Interacting with animals can do wonders for our attitude and help us get through tough times. Researchers have found that owning a pet can actually make us feel better mentally and physically. Owning a pet requires care and responsibility, but the benefits to our health make it all worthwhile. A 2017 Time Magazine article, Science Says Your Pet is Good for Your Mental Health, explains, “Pets are incredibly well loved: according to a 2015 Harris poll, 95% of owners think of their animal as a member of the family. About half buy them birthday presents. And it’s a two-way street. People who have pets tend to have lower blood pressure, heart rate and heart-disease risk than those who don’t. Those health boons may come from the extra exercise that playing and walking require, and the stress relief of having a steady best friend on hand.” There are a variety of factors at play when it comes to improving our health through pet ownership. We get outside more often when we have a dog to walk, and the combination of sunshine and being out in nature make us feel more energetic and happier. Playing with pets can be just as much of a benefit to them as it is to us. We get more exercise when we play with our pets—even if we are just playing fetch with our dog. We become more physically fit and have more energy. According to a 2017 Huffington Post article, 12 Ways Your Pet Can Improve Your Mental Health, “Studies have shown that animal owners, both adults and children, have lower blood pressure, as well as lower cholesterol and triglycerides, which may be in part attributed to the more active lifestyle pets promote. Pet owners also have been noted to have better circulation, and a lower risk of experiencing major cardiac issues. And when your body feels stronger, you are less susceptible to mental health issues.” Even just petting a dog or cat can have great stress-reducing effects. Petting an animal releases oxytocin, a stress and anxiety-relieving chemical in our brains, which reduces blood pressure and makes us feel calmer. The love and companionship provided by our pets can make us happier even on our worst days.
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