Pet owners live longer, have less stress, and are happier than others. Pets can directly boost your health, which can transform your quality of life.
Spending time with a pet regulates cortisol levels, the primary stress hormone. We need cortisol to get out of bed and live our lives. But when it’s too high at the wrong times of day, it takes a drastic toll. Elevated cortisol is associated with mental illness, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, and many other illnesses. Ultimately, it makes us susceptible to whatever comes our way.
Scientific research has demonstrated that just a few minutes in the company of a dog or cat can reduce cortisol levels and other indicators of stress. What’s more, the daily routine that you get into with your pet can help you manage stress in healthy ways, and take control over your cortisol. Waking up early to take your dog outdoors or cuddling your kitty before bedtime can shift you away from the tired-and-wired cycle that wreaks havoc on long-term health.
Dog owners don’t just have a handy excuse for a daily run or walk. They engage in active play, an essential form of movement that most of us leave behind in childhood. Sitting for hours each day is hardly what humans evolved to do, and it’s no surprise that it affects every aspect of our health.
For pet owners, any and every moment is an opportunity to play. Your pet will entice you to get off the couch for an impromptu tug-of-war session, or to venture out into the backyard to run around together. You’ll go to the dog park, take walks in inclement weather, and reconnect with your love of nature and love of play. The effects include better cardiovascular endurance; increased physical strength; and a lowered risk of heart disease, strokes, and more.
The medical benefits of mindfulness can’t be overstated. It’s been demonstrated to improve outcomes and reduce risks for countless physical ailments, and is also a key aspect of treatment for most mental illnesses. Mindfulness is the hinge that connects the body and mind, bringing us into a full experience of ourselves. Researchers are fascinated by the possibilities inherent in the body-mind connection and its applicability to well-being.
Animals are truly present wherever they are, no matter what they’re doing. They’ve already detached from the past and future, because they don’t rely on memory and planning the way that people do. Observing your pet can teach you something essential about letting go of worry and just being. Playtime and relaxing with your pet can go further than making you less stressed and more active. It can actually rewire your brain, increasing joy while helping you evade disease.
There are many reasons people shy away from spending time with pets. Maybe you feel awkward, or even scared. Or you love animals, but can’t imagine taking on the responsibility. Consider seeking out therapy animals, becoming a pet-sitter with Rover.com, or adopting a pet you know you can handle (birds, fish, and turtles can all brighten our days!).
With each step, you’ll find that the benefits build on each other, and you’ll soon want to spend all your time with a beloved pet at your side. Your future self will thank you.