Chances are, if you're here reading this, you're a dog lover. And if you've ever had a canine (or feline) companion in your life, you don't need us to tell you that pets are great at relieving stress. Most dog lovers can't imagine their life without their best friend, and they say that dogs simply bring more joy to their lives.
Imagine this: You just had a stressful day at work. Your boss yelled at you for a simple mistake. Your co-workers are talking about how layoffs are coming. Maybe you were so busy, you rushed through lunch, barely having time to taste your tuna sandwich. Or maybe you were so busy, you missed lunch altogether. The phone was ringing off the hook. Nothing seems to be going right.
I'm sure everyone reading this has experienced a day like this at least once in their life. Some live it daily. And overall, humans are more stressed now than ever before. Not only can stress give you a headache, too much stress can also kill you. High blood pressure is a dangerous problem, far too many people face. Sure, some if it comes from poor diets, but too much stress can also be a culprit.
And it's no wonder that so many people are looking into natural stress relievers. Yoga. Exercise. Herbal remedies. All of these have been touted as natural stress relievers, and have been credited with having some degree of success. But you can also add one more item to that list. Dogs.
Go back to the scenario above. Now picture yourself coming home, defeated, stressed, and utterly worn down. When you get home, you probably just want to crash on the couch, flip on the TV, and forget about life for a moment. But then, once your key hits the lock on the front door, you hear the scampering of paws or the sound of a familiar bark. And as the door opens, your best friend is there waiting for you, their tail wagging nonstop, and their tongue out, ready to cover you with kisses. Your dog is there to tell you they love you no matter what, and they're so happy to see you!
How can you not feel at least a little better after that?
There are many health benefits associated with owning a pet, not the least which is a reduction of stress. And while many of us probably knew that owning a dog or cat could lead to a happier life, based solely on our own lives and experiences, we now have science backing this up.
A 2001 study found that patients with high blood pressure were able to keep their blood pressure down during periods of high stress simply by owning a pet. In fact, you don't even have to own a pet to experience the natural relaxation an animal can bring.
The reason for this is when you interact favorably with an animal, the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin is released, while your body decreases production of the cortisol – what is often called the stress hormone.
And there's more good news for pet owners. Another study showed that people who owned pets were more likely to survive at least a year after having a heart attack.
As far as how to reap the benefits of having a pet, all you really have to do is play with one or pet one. Or spend some quality time with them, sharing some yummy treats or laughing when they get Peanut Butter stuck to the roof of their mouths! This is, of course, good news for all of those folks who can't have a pet right now. Volunteer at a shelter or hang out at the dog park for an hour or two, and you'll reap the same benefits and feel much better physically and mentally.