Oh, my dogs.
As I’m writing this, I have just come back from taking Rhoslyn (the lighter one) on a walk. Again.
I love my doggos, and can’t imagine a happy, healthy life without them. Turns out, there’s some science behind that, and why owning a pet (of many varieties) might be just the thing for body and soul. Here are 6 of those benefits.
1. Natural Anti-Depressant. I personally like telling my dogs about my crappy day and airing my worries to their sympathetic ears. Beyond such anecdotal proof, there are multiple studies showing that our pets can help us reduce stress. Holding and stroking a cat, dog, rabbit, or other soft friend can provide relief from anxiety. It’s possible that your furry friend might even be better at providing comfort than your human friends!
2. Personal Trainer. Owning a dog might be just the thing to motivate you off the couch and onto the sidewalk. Even if your yard is fenced, it’s best for your pet’s health to get regular strolls around the neighborhood. Added bonus? You need to go with them, which can help in the perennial battle against the bulge. Yes, you have to scoop the poo. Yes, you’ll get over it. It’s worth it to get some fresh air with your pup!
3. A Healthier You. Maybe it’s all that fresh air, but people with pets are, in general, healthier than people without. They miss less work, make fewer trips to the doctor, and recover more quickly from illness or injury. Also, people with pets have measurably lower blood pressure and resting heart rates, even in times of stress. Further, exposure to cat and dog dander might actually alleviate asthma symptoms in the long run, as people gain resistance to the irritants. Those kitties and puppies really are good for us!
4. Superb for Children. First of all, there’s nothing cuter than seeing a child cuddle with a bunny or kitten. That’s why the internet is filled with these images! Beyond the significant adorable factor, however, having a pet can be of real benefit to children. Children with pets show strengths in empathy and responsibility, and pets can provide children the same stress reducing benefits that they do in adults. Further, pets have been shown to be particularly helpful for children with ADHD (increased focus) and/or autism (soothing).
5. Fur not required. So, you say you don’t want to deal with a furry friend? As it turns out, fur isn’t required for you to reap some of the benefits of pet ownership. An aquarium, for example, can be calming and can improve concentration. And, wacky as it sounds, petting a turtle can also be (oddly) relaxing. Apparently there’s something to be said for connecting with other living creatures. Personally, I can’t imagine any other way!
6. Your Cruise Director. Marty (the golden one, above) is the most social dog we’ve ever had. He loves everyone, and he’s going to make sure that he (and you) get to meet every person he comes across! Yet one more benefit from owning a pet: they encourage you to socialize with others. Further, people with pets are seen as “friendly,” which can get you in good with your neighbors. Whether it’s at the dog park, out for a walk, or in an online chat room, your pets can help you get and stay connected.
Note: Friends, I take mental health very seriously. Please don’t take this blog as anything more than a celebration of pets. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or a serious case of the blues, please seek professional help. The NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website has lots of information about mental health, and someone is there to talk to you 24/7.
Becky Eason, PhD, is an Associate Certified Coach and Certified Leadership Coach. She would love to come with you on your journey for wellness and a happy heart. Learn more on her website: wequestforwellness.com