As a pet owner, the following item from HelpGuide.org really hit the mark for me.
“While most pet owners are clear about the immediate joys that come with sharing their lives with companion animals, many remain unaware of the physical and mental health benefits that can also accompany the pleasure of playing with or snuggling up to a furry friend. It’s only recently that studies have begun to scientifically explore the benefits of the human-animal bond. Studies have found that:
▪ Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
▪ People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
▪ Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
▪ Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
▪ Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
▪ Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
▪ A pet doesn’t have to be a dog or a cat. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and pulse rate.
One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that most pets fulfill the basic human need to touch. Even hardened criminals in prison have shown long-term changes in their behavior after interacting with pets, many of them experiencing mutual affection for the first time. Stroking, holding, cuddling, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we’re stressed. The companionship of a pet can also ease loneliness, and some pets are a great stimulus for healthy exercise, which can substantially boost mood.”
Owning a pet is a natural relaxation exercise. We wrote about the Power and Benefits of Relaxation here.