Thursday, May 2, 2019

Why Pets Help Keep You Happy

Why Pets Help Keep You Happy

For a few months earlier in the year I had mentioned we were hoping to get a dog. It never worked out for one reason or another, but now the time seems right. We bought a cavachon puppy that we are picking up in 2 weeks. I've never been a dog owner, but I have had a cat since middle school. I am really happy we are raising our kids with pets. Our 6 year old daughter is learning responsibility in helping to feed and care for our cat and will do the same for the dog when he arrives. Our little one is learning how to treat animals nicely. Whether you have a pet fish, hamster, dog, horse, or something more unique, pets improve our lives every day. We bond with our pets in different ways that we do other humans. They provide us with unconditional love and support, raising our self-esteem as we successfully provide for them. People that identify as a "pet parent" are often happier than those that do not have any. See a few of the reasons pets can help keep us happy!

They're the Perfect Companions

Even though we live in a world where it’s easier than ever to connect with others, through an email, text, or have a phone or video call, many people feel lonely. Communication isn't as personal as it used to be and we don't see people face to face as often. Feeling lonely can make symptoms of other psychological conditions like anxiety, depression, OCD, or PTSD worse, which is why many psychologists and mental health professionals recommend emotional support animals to people with certain disorders that feel lonely or isolated from friends and family. Pets offer companionship and comfort to ease feelings of loneliness. 
Instant Mood Lifters
Have you ever noticed that even when you're having a bad day, you can't help but smile at your pet? When they greet you at the door after a bad day, you feel immediately better. Pets have a unique way of changing our mood. When cuddling or petting a dog, cat, or other pet, the brain releases oxytocin. Oxytocin is an emotional bonding chemical known as the "love hormone" and is an antidepressant. Levels of cortisol decrease, lowering our stress. Cortisol is the hormone releases as a result of the "fight or flight" response. 
Exercise Encouragers
Dogs, in particular, keep us happy by encouraging exercise and spending time outdoors. They need to be walked and play outside each day. Dog owners walk more on average than a non-dog owner. Exercise is crucial for reducing stress and anxiety. Endorphins help to keep us happy. It's as important for mental health as it is for physical health. Even other pets like cats can encourage exercise with their daily care and playtime. 
Cuteness Overload 
Another reason pets keep us happy is that they're so darn cute! We feel better when we look at cute things. The brain releases dopamine when looking at things that are "cute." Dopamine instantly makes us feel happy. What's cuter than your furbaby? Our pets are always acting goofy or going out of their way to do something "cute." They have us wrapped around their fingers, and they know it! 

Pets of all different shapes and sizes make us happy. Whether you work a lot and only have time for a fish or have lots of land and horses, pets make chemical changes in the body and brain that increase happiness. They great companions and help us feel less alone, which is super important for those with certain psychological conditions. Before we had children, my husband's job took him to Dublin for 1 1/2 years while I stayed in Wisconsin. I don't know what I would have done without our cat to keep me company! A pet for someone with some disorders can qualify as an emotional support animal. If you think a pet would help make you happier, head to your local shelter and find all different types of pets looking for a great home. Also, check out this blog that covers all things ESA!

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more with this. It's hard to convince someone who doesn't have pets (like my mom) but they bring so much joy!!