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Top 5 ways your dog or cat can help you de-stress

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De-stress

There’s no getting around the fact we’re living in stressful times. But the good news is that our dogs and cats can help significantly lower our stress levels — check out the top five ways they do it!

To say the past couple of years have been stressful is an understatement. And as COVID-19 continues to afflict the whole world, that stress isn’t letting up much. On the plus side, a study done by Washington State University shows that interacting with animals markedly reduces stress in humans. Whether you’re always shared your life with animals, or only adopted your first dog or cat during the pandemic, here are the top five ways your four-legged friend can help you de-stress and feel calmer during these difficult times.

1. Touching, petting and stroking reduce stress

Feeling the softness of your cat’s fur or the warmth of your dog’s body releases endorphins in your brain and body, easing your tension and helping you feel more
relaxed. The American Heart Association Council has found that a loving touch, whether from a human or animal, can also reduce blood pressure and heart rate. And research has shown that a cat’s purr has healing qualities. Even sharing a gaze with your dog or cat can bring about feelings of warmth and love.

2. The sound of her voice lifts your spirits

Not only are touch and gazing relaxing and beneficial – listening to your dog or cat’s voice is too. A happy bark or meow has soothing qualities. And there’s nothing quite like the joy and release we feel when our dogs and cats happily greet us at the door, ready to welcome us home with their unconditional love.

Did you know? Professor Stanley Coren at the University of British Columbia, who has studied canine barks, determined that one or two short, sharp barks means “hello”.

3. She helps you make new friends

Having a network of supportive friends is vital to our happiness and well-being, particularly when we’re feeling stressed. Having a dog or cat often helps people make new friends. A prime example is meeting fellow dog lovers while taking your pooch for a stroll or a romp at the dog park. Many people also make connections online by joining groups or forums devoted to dogs or cats.

Therapeutic effects of dogs and cats - stressDid you know? Over 30% of animal parents say their dogs and cats help them meet other people, and 60% have made friends with fellow animal lovers, according to a study by the University of Western Australia and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

4. You get more exercise

Physical activity is frequently touted as a great way to decrease stress, and having a companion animal ensures you get some every day! Just going for a walk, hike or run with your dog increases the amount of time you engage in exercise.

Did you know? Researchers at Michigan State University found that 25% of dog parents walk around 21⁄2 hours more per week than those without dogs.

Even cats can help you exercise more, since they love to engage in interactive play with their humans. Many kitties can also be trained to walk on a harness and leash, which helps get people up off the couch more too.

5. Last but not least, she gives you love

Dogs and cats give us unconditional love, something we don’t get from too many fellow humans. You can be sure your dog or cat loves you no matter how you look, what mood you’re in, what mistakes you made that day, or whether or not the house is tidy. In other words, you don’t have to impress her, and that’s a great antidote to stress!

Did you know? In turn, loving and caring for your dog or cat will help calm, ground, and uplift you when you feel anxious or depressed. Given the increasingly stressful world in which we live, having a dog or cat to love, stroke, listen to, and make friends with is highly beneficial for your physical, mental and emotional well-being. A recent study by the University of York found that having an animal companion resulted in better mental health and reduced loneliness. Whatever happens in our own lives, our dogs and cats will be there with us, ready to love us and ease our stress.

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