Pets and Your Health (and Happiness)

We KNOW that you love your pets…and YOU know that your pets love you. But did you know they are actually good for your health?

Often people don’t want to bring a pet into their home. They’re too busy. It’s too expensive. I don’t want the mess. Yup, heard it all. But what if you knew the benefits to your overall health having a pet brings? Would you change your mind?

Let’s look at a basic. Your dog, will encourage you to exercise. My philosophy has always been a well exercised, aka tired dog, is a good dog! It’s true! But those dogs need a walk, actually two, every day.  Beyond that it’s fun to take them on a hike or to the dog park for a game of fetch. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know if you live somewhere cold it’s not easy…I get that, I live in Michigan…it’s called layers people! :) If you have a cat, or a hamster, this doesn’t count…just saying!

Your pet can help you “keep calm and carry on”. There is something so therapeutic about interacting with your pet. It has actually been proven to lower your blood pressure. The stroking and petting of your pet actually does something physically within your body. It causes you to release more serotonins. When your serotonin levels are higher you feel less pain, or experience less depression. Think anti-depressants. A pet? More natural. Healthier.

And as a mom of tweens and teens, I have seen my kids bury their heads into the fur of their dog when everything seems to be “falling apart”. I didn’t tell them to do that, I didn’t give them the “serotonin speech”…instinctively they know the calming affect.

And speaking of kids, your pet is also a great way to teach them responsibility…which in turn boosts their self esteem! My 8 year old feeds and waters our dogs each day. She knows they depend on her! They look to her in the morning, and she feels very important knowing that!  I’ve also had my kids read to the dogs. Hey, they’re good listeners…and it’s not for the pets silly! It’s to allow the child to do something and grow better at it, without the fear of being made fun of!

 

Let’s talk therapy pets. They are programs sprouting up all over because doctors and therapists are realizing that the mere presence of a pet in a room can change a mood and even accelerate progress in some mental health patients. One of my favorite new “finds” is the benefit of therapy dogs for children with autism. Children that would never respond or even speak are giving VERBAL instructions to these dogs…THAT is a miracle!

Pets are even being brought into hospitals, nursing homes, therapy centers. It just works.

Alright, you can’t have a dog or cat or mouse…what about an aquarium? There are reasons they are in doctors offices. Did you know that? Mentally they are very soothing and mesmerizing. A great way to sit back, just observe and go “ahhhhh”.

My favorite benefit to having a pet…is the unconditional love. Something we humans are not always so great at. Talking to, petting, or even just watching your pet gives you a chance to take a time out. Step away from your anxieties…people stressers and just “be”.

So do your health a benefit, do YOU a benefit. Take a drive to your local animal shelter and just explore the possibility. There is a lot of love waiting to be had within those walls.

And if you have a pet? Go give them a snuggle, a treat, a smile or just a glance…you WILL be glad you did!

 
 

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