You wake up in the morning and you’re not sure if it will be a good day or otherwise. But the moment you roll over and find a pair of eyes staring at you and a tail wagging with anticipation – and you can’t help but smile. As you get up to start your day, the excitement builds as your pup sees you grab the leash on your way to the door. He jumps up and down, his body is trembling, and his excitement is barely containable. You have to admit, even before you’ve had your first cup of coffee, pets and their positive energy can have a big impact on how you approach the day.
No matter what furry, feathered, or finned creatures you choose to love, pets push you to move, put you in a happy mood, and make you feel special. Simply put, pets can improve your physical, mental, and emotional health in immeasurable ways – all while helping you be the best version of yourself.
How Pets Contribute To Our Overall Mental and Physical Health
Aside from being good friends, pets can keep their owners in overall good health – emotionally and physically. Here are a few ways pets keep us on top of our game:
They keep us active
When Fido points to his leash, you have to get off your couch – like it or not – and take him outside for his routine walk. There is no way around it and, in the end, it’s good for both of you. For humans, regular exercise not only releases endorphins (helping to keep your mind clear and improve everything from sleep to anxiety), but it is proven to improve heart health, lower blood pressure, and, best of all, keep you physically strong and fit.
They provide mood boosts and stress reduction
If you’ve had a long day and need to vent, you don’t always want to hear someone talking back. The good thing about talking to our pets is they don’t answer back, at least not verbally. But the real beauty of pets is that they don’t have to, we can feel and sense their love without a word.
Personal interaction with our pets increases our oxytocin level, boosting our psychological health. Pets can also do wonders to improve our stress levels and reduce anxiety. Whether it’s the comfort of knowing you have a faithful defender by your side or simply the fact that pets are constant friends and companions, they are always there to help us lighten the mood. It’s no wonder therapy animals are used to reduce stress, prevent feelings of isolation, and reduce depression, right?
They add routine to our day
In today’s current climate, with schedules that have gone out of the window and so much uncertainty about the future, routine is important for maintaining our sense of normalcy. Fortunately, pets are all about routine! They have their basic needs such as regular feeding and bathroom breaks, but they also have their own schedules they like to keep. Whether it’s your dog’s daily walks, your cat’s nightly belly rubs, or your fish’s weekly aquarium cleaning, our pets help us remain on track and remember the importance of routine.
They can sniff out medical and mental health conditions
Pets often have senses that work on a higher frequency than our own, including their sense of smell. But it’s not just household smells they pick up on – pets can also detect the chemical changes in your body. In multiple scientific studies, dogs, in particular, have proven to be effective “medics.” Some dogs have been able to detect diabetes after sensing a drop in blood sugar, or sniff out unique cancer elements that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Additionally, pets often have a “sixth sense” that allows them to pick up on vibrations in our mood or overall well being, even when we’re not aware of the changes ourselves. How often has your pet taken the initiative to show you a little extra love when you were feeling blue? Or maybe they’ve shown anxiety when you’ve been particularly high strung. The simple fact is that we can often measure and evaluate our own moods and mental health by watching how our pets act around us.
They Make Us Feel Good
Mental and physical health are intricately tied together. When we feel good on the inside, we’re more inspired to take care of ourselves on the outside. This could mean more exercise, greater productivity, or just higher levels of energy and alertness. Petting, playing with, chatting to, cuddling, or just being with your pets can calm you if you are agitated, allowing you to regain a day that may have otherwise gone off the rails; or they can simply provide you with that feel-good vibe you need to stay productive. Whatever the cause, because our pets make us feel good emotionally, they can also help us take care of our physical needs in healthier ways.
They provide companionship and prevent loneliness
Extended periods of social isolation like the ones we’re all experiencing now can take their toll on us – mind, body, and soul. Science tells us that loneliness, particularly for long periods of time, can be detrimental, not only to our mental health, but to our physical well being. Loneliness has been shown to increase illness, serve as a catalyst for depression, and even shorten life spans. Now more than ever, our pets are key!
Pets may not be able to talk back, but we can still talk to them and they will understand many of our words and gestures, as well as our overall body language; and chances are, they will respond accordingly. By seeking the companionship of our pets, we can stop ailments, ward off depression, and add years to our lives.
They keep us social
Even during times of quarantine and social distancing, our pets can be a way to interact with others. Maybe it’s striking up a conversation with a fellow “pet parent” while walking your dog or chatting with another cat lover who happens to be strolling by as you’re bringing your cat in from the yard. It could even be chatting to a stranger at the pet store or vet’s office. Regardless of our backgrounds or circumstances, pets and the love we have for them create a common bond with our human friends – not just our four-legged ones!
But we can learn more than just healthy emotional and physical lessons from our pets. They can also teach us a thing of two about living our best life…
What Pets Can Teach Us About Life
Pets don’t just learn from us; we can also learn from them. Here are some powerful life lessons we can learn from our pets:
They teach us how to give back
Pets are loyal, great companions, give wholeheartedly, and, dogs, in particular, will defend their people until the end. These are the qualities we value most in our pets and are the reasons we love them. In this, they teach us about giving to others and practicing the Golden Rule: treat others how you would like to be treated. Emulating the same love and loyalty and giving back to others (including your pets!) will enrich your life and your mental health in many ways.
In the case of our pets, this means not just providing them with a loving home, but making sure they have quality of life until the end. For example, if you have a dog and the years are starting to catch up him, you might notice mobility issues. Take him to a canine rehabilitation specialist who can help reduce pain, improve fitness, and restore his mobility. It is this constant love and attention to the well being of others that helps us feel our own sense of well being and makes us more receptive to getting help when we need it.
They show us how to overcome fear with love
If you’ve ever seen a dog or cat cower in a thunderstorm, you know how important it is to help them calm their fears. And most likely, you have seen how your pets overcome their fear and insecurities when you show them love. Remember this rule for yourself and others – show love no matter what and even the most fearful situations become better.
They don’t hold grudges
You just gave your dog a tongue-lashing for chewing your shoes or for peeing inside the house. He will be in front of you listening with his head bent down, but when you call him afterwards he comes running. All is forgiven because neither of you held a grudge. Remember this in all of your personal relationships. Release grudges and let the bad vibes out. It is then that you will find personal freedom and restored relationships.
They show unconditional love
In good and bad times, in sickness and in health, your furry friend is always by your side. Pets give us a reason to laugh when we’re sad and companionship during our lonely moments. But most importantly, they don’t ask anything in return except our love and care. Follow your pet’s example, and you will learn how to love more, show compassion, be generous, display kindness, and overall, be the best version of yourself.
No matter how many pets you have or what type of pets your prefer, the bottom line is that we can gain a lot from them and they deserve to have the best from us. By understanding and appreciating what you can learn from your pets, as well as the overall health benefits they provide, you’ll find that pets are more than just another distraction – they truly are “man’s best friend.”