woman and her dog hanging out in bed

Photo courtesy of @sankitts/Twenty20

You know that feeling you get when you pet a dog? For many people, suddenly it can feel as if everything is right in the world and worries instantly melt away. Plus, most dogs simply adore that affection and attention. 

We love our pets — dogs, cats, parrots, hamsters, rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, and more — but did you know that spending time with them can actually improve your health? 

Even if you don’t have any pets of your own and you hang out with other people’s pets, you can experience those same benefits. 

So, for your health — and your furry (or not so furry) friend’s wellbeing — make more time in your day for your favorite creatures. As if they don’t already put a smile on your face, here are four reasons to inspire you to cuddle or play with a pet. 

They lessen anxiety

Many of us immediately feel good vibes when we spend time with an animal, and it’s a feeling that’s been scientifically-proven. Several studies have delved into how animals can decrease anxiety, such as one study which concluded that animal-assisted therapy can greatly reduce anxiety, especially among depressed, hospitalized patients. 

The next time you’re feeling jittery, snuggle up to your pet or simply play their favorite game for a while. Then watch your brain begin to let go of those concerns. 

They encourage physical activity

Studies have shown that dog owners get much more physical exercise than those who don’t have dogs. All those walks with your Best Fuzzy Friend can pay off in decreased calories, improved cardiovascular health, and boosted mental health as well. Take your pup to the park for a walk and a game of catch. Run around the house with a rambunctious cat. Or, if you have a horse, head out for a ride that will benefit you both. 

They lift depression symptoms

In a study of rural older adults and depression, researchers discovered that those who had dogs had lower levels of depression. This was attributed to fulfillment from caring for a pet as well as experiencing a relationship that’s on par with a human relationship. 

There are several methods for treating depression (such as therapy and/​or meditation if they feel right to you), and it turns out that caring for a pet is one of them. If you deal with depression, getting a pet, or even volunteering at an animal shelter, may diminish your depression symptoms.

They help your heart

There’s no doubt that you carry love for your pet in your heart. But pet ownership is good for your physical heart, too. Research is showing that having a pet is helpful in lowering blood pressure and may even lessen the risk for cardiovascular disease. 

You already have tons of reasons for loving your pet — and now you have even more.

Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.