The season of gratitude is just around the corner and the Heaven at Home team would just like to remind everyone of the wonderful dimension that companion animals add to our lives. According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), research shows that pet ownership improves mental health and wellbeing in a number of ways.
Love is the Drug
Did you know that the “Bonding” Hormone – Oxytocin – is the same hormone released when breastfeeding babies? Oxytocin levels increase in the brain, bringing a sense of calm, comfort and focus, while interacting with your dog or cat. Studies show that interaction with their humans likewise increases oxytocin in both dogs and cats, and likely explains their ability to form secure bonds with us.
It’s a Dog’s (or Cat’s) Life
Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. Some studies show that petting and playing with animals reduces stress-related hormones after just five minutes of interaction. That’s because playing with a dog or cat raises our levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are hormones that calm and relax the nervous system.
Pets Increase Our Sense of Wellbeing
People feel more needed and wanted when they have a pet to care for. Caring for another living thing gives us a sense of purpose and meaning. According to psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University who studied the impact of pets on wellbeing, pet parents enjoy:
- Better self-esteem
- More physically fit
- Less lonely
- More conscientious and less preoccupied
- More extroverted
- Less fearful.
Then there’s the purely physical dimension – keeping up with your pets! Dog owners in particular need to take their pets for walks, runs, and hikes regularly, making them more likely to meet recommended daily exercise requirements.
Pets Support Social Connection
In addition to companionship, pets can also counteract social isolation by providing a common topic to talk about. Dog walking also leads to conversations and more social interaction.
Dogs and cats love their owners unconditionally. They are simply happy to see their owners, and never judge.
For these and many other reasons, take a moment this Thanksgiving to cherish your loyal companion.