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Positive Health Effects of Human-Animal Interactions

There is nothing like a loyal companion to welcome you home from a long day at work or keep you company during lonely nights. Besides being a joy to be around, pets provide unconditional love and support that can go far beyond just keeping you company. The presence of pets may also improve children’s emotional and social skills, decrease stress, and improve heart health.

Although human-animal interaction research is a relatively new field, many studies have shown positive effects on human health can be associated with owning a pet. Interacting with animals has been proven to have both a physiological and psychological impact, reducing cortisol levels (a hormone associated with stress), lowering blood pressure, and relaxing you. Other studies have demonstrated that animals are able to reduce feelings of loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and uplift one’s mood. Pets can foster the development of children by helping them feel secure and stay active. Pets can also provide valuable companionship to older people and help them feel less alone. However, the greatest gift a pet will bring you is unconditional love and joy.

How Animals Help People

The presence of a pet can provide a sense of comfort and security. This is especially true for therapy dogs or service dogs. Hospitals and nursing homes sometimes bring them in as part of their efforts to reduce patients’ stress and anxiety. We can find support in the unconditionally loving attention that animals give to us, especially in times of distress, and their company is a great way to lift our spirits and make us feel safe. 

Among the reasons for these therapeutic benefits is the fact that pets satisfy the human need for touch. Interestingly, it has been observed that even hardened criminals in prison can exhibit long-term changes in their behavior after interacting with a pet, with many of them indulging in mutual affection for the first time as well. When you’re stressed or anxious, you can quickly calm and soothe yourself by hugging, stroking, or otherwise touching a loving animal. In addition to helping with loneliness and destressing, pets can also stimulate healthy exercise, which can boost your mood and ease depression.

Three Ways Pets Can Lead to Healthier Lifestyles

A healthy lifestyle plays an important part in alleviating the symptoms of anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and stress. Besides providing companionship and reducing anxiety, caring for an animal can help motivate you to lead a healthier lifestyle by:

1. Increasing Your Physical Activity

If you are looking for an enjoyable way to fit physical activity into your daily routine, then walking, hiking, or running with your dog is a great and easy option. Researchers have found that dog owners have a better chance of meeting their required daily exercise than those without dogs. Dogs also benefit from regular exercise. As a result, you will develop a deeper relationship with your pet, eliminate most behavioral problems, and keep them in good health. 

2. Establishing a Routine and Structure for Your Day

The majority of pets, and especially dogs, require feeding and exercise on a regular basis. A consistent routine can be one of the best things you can do to help a pet to stay calm and relaxed — and it can be good for you as well. Even when you might be depressed, anxious, or stressed, one look from your pet will remind you to get out of bed to take care of them, feed, and exercise them, which in turn can help take your mind off of your problems and be more present.

3. Breaking You Out of Your Comfort Zone

Pets are also a great way to make and maintain new friendships, helping owners to socialize. Many dog owners stop and chat while on walks, hikes, or at the dog park and connect with others over their dogs. There are also pet stores, clubs, and training classes where pet owners can meet new people.

Finding the Perfect Pet for You

There is no doubt that people with pets experience health benefits that those without do not, but you don’t necessarily need a dog or a cat to assist your mental or physical health. If you’re allergic to other animals or have limited space but still want a furry friend, a rabbit or ferret could be the ideal companion. Having birds around can encourage social interaction and might even help you to keep your mind sharp if you’re an older adult. Reptiles such as snakes, lizards, and tarantulas can be good pets for those who prefer exotic companions. There is even evidence that watching fish in an aquarium can reduce muscle tension and lower your heart rate.

If you have decided that owning a pet is the right choice for you, congratulations! You’re about to embark on an exciting journey filled with joy and many rewards. Pet owners tend to be happier, more independent, and more secure, but it’s important you pick the right pet for you based on your needs and lifestyle. 

At the end of the day, you should be honest with yourself about the type of lifestyle you prefer and what kind of pet you’re able to take care of. Consider getting a fish or a caged smaller animal if you’re not sure about caring for a larger animal. Find out what fits your lifestyle, and don’t forget, owning a pet is a commitment—they need the same unconditional love and care that they give to you.

Life Adjustment Team

If you want to get your life back on track, or need assistance with your mental health, contact Life Adjustment Team today. Our trained mental health professionals work with you on an individual or group basis to come up with the best plan to get your back to a normal life.