Pets are more important than ever. Not only do more of us own pets than ever before, but we’re also adopting more bizarre creatures to be our life companions. Your pets improve your health on the way that you think. It can also have a huge effect on your physical and mental health, from relieving stress to giving you a reason to wake up in the morning.
If you’ve never thought about how your pet impacts your life, here is 10 amazing ways how pets improve your health.
1. Improve Your Self-Esteem
It seems like we’re more likely than ever to struggle with self-esteem these days. As people become busier with their careers, and as life becomes much more fast-paced, it’s easy to slip into a place where you feel insignificant. Animals have an amazing way of changing that, though.
In fact, studies have even shown that animals are able to improve our state of mind, and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a report that shows those who own pets have more self-esteem than those who don’t own pets. It also suggested that pet owners tend to be more of an extrovert, and much less fearful of new situations than others.
2. Pets Improve Your Mood
As well as improving your self-esteem no end, having a pet can also work as an instant mood improve. If you’re having a bad day, your pet can almost instantly make you feel better – and, when you come home to a dog that’s excited to see you, or a cat purring, your body experiences a number of benefits.
When you smile and relax with your pet, your body’s cortisol levels – which is the amount of a mood-changing chemical flowing through your veins – will reduce. When the cortisol hormone is lowered, and more serotonin is produced, your general feeling of well-being is increased, your stress is reduced and your body feels better.
3. Improve Your Blood Pressure
Get this – owning a pet can significantly improve your blood pressure. Sure, if you really do have problems with your blood pressure, it’s essential to speak to your doctor – but there’s no reason why you can’t supplement your treatment with the love and affection of a pet.
Studies have previously taken stockbrokers – notoriously stressed-out workers – and given half of the participants their own cats and dogs as pets. The other half are left without those pets. Over the time the study took place, the blood pressure of all participants were taken, and it found that loving a pet can actually stabilize a person’s blood pressure.
So how does it work? It’s thought it’s largely a result of pets helping to calm us down after a long day of work. So if you’re thinking about improving your health, why not pay a visit to the local shelter and take home a dog or cat who have been abandoned? Save their life, and improve your own!
4. Bring More People to Your Life
Being lonely can affect our mental and physical health, and it can be hard for people who aren’t used to making friends to get themselves out there and meet new people. That’s where pets can come in.
If you don’t have the gift of the gab, your pet can be the ultimate conversation starter. Whether you’re walking to the store to pick up a newspaper in the morning, or you’re out walking in the city with your new puppy, your pet can be a great way to meet new people. You can even head over to a dog park or other facilities designed specifically for your furry friend, where you can meet people with a shared interest.
This interaction with other people will boost your self-confidence, reduce stress and seriously improve your mental health.
5. They Reduce Your Allergies
Believe it or not, owning a pet can actually reduce the number of allergies you might end up suffering from. Amazingly, studies have suggested that if you are exposed to a pet in your early years, you are much less likely to become allergic to animals as you get older.
So, if you’re already 50 years old, it’s unlikely that getting a pet now will help your allergies. If, however, you are still in your younger years – or you’re trying to make sure your children are as healthy as possible – then picking up a pet could actually drastically improve your health.
A previous study has shown that those who had a pet in their house during a child’s infancy were 50% less likely to develop an allergy to other animals. Amazing!
6. Become a Positive Person
In a study published by Psychology Today, it was found that people who own pets become significantly happier than they were before. The study involved 97 people, all of whom were unknowingly subjected to a social experience which would be considered negative or unpleasant. The participants were also asked to write a letter to someone they love about their pet. Some were instead asked to draw a map of an area they knew.
By the end of the study, it was found that those who wrote a letter about their pet experience no negative feelings and were as happy as they were before they went through the negative social experience. Those who drew the map, however, experienced negative feelings afterwards.
7. Get Some Emotional Support
Emotional support is really important, and studies show time and time again that those who own a pet feel like they are getting just as much emotional support from them as they would a member of their family. Psychology Today regularly publishes articles about the effect that pets can have on our lives, including pieces about the emotional support they offer.
When you have a dog at home waiting for you, and someone to talk to when you’re alone (even if they don’t respond!), your emotional wellbeing improves quite significantly over time.
8. Reduce Your Cholesterol
This is another believe-it-or-not benefit of owning a pet! The director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction over at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Rebecca A. Johnson, has said that those who have daily walks with their dog are actually more easily able to keep their cholesterol in check.
So, if you’re a keen walker with your dog, you’re able to improve your physical fitness and reduce the effect that modern food can have on your health. Even if you eat healthily, walking once a day with your dog – brisk or casual – can help keep that bad cholesterol in check and improve your physical health.
9. They Can Increase Your Stamina
In the same way that having pets – in particular a dog – can reduce your bad cholesterol levels, your pet can also increase your physical stamina.
If you haven’t exercised properly in a while, you’ve gained a few extra pounds or your smoking habit has made it difficult for you to run, then a pet can change all of that. Taking your dog out on daily walks, or even going out jogging with your furry pal, can increase your stamina.
A study published by the Journal of Physical Activity and Health has found that those who own dogs walk much more than those who don’t – and that dog owners were also 54% more likely to be meeting the daily government-recommended amounts of physical exercise and activity.
10. Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is a huge killer in the Western world, and as well as improving your diet, having a pet dog is one of the best ways to reduce your chances of experiencing it. No, the dog itself won’t improve your heart health – but all the extra exercise you do with it will!
A study from the University of Missouri discovered that those who walk their dog regularly improved their fitness way more than non-dog owners. Another study even found that the average dog walker will take 300 minutes out of their time to go walking with their dog every week, whereas those who don’t have dogs only took 168 minutes of their week for walking.
All this extra physical activity does wonders for your heart health.