In addition to May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we also celebrated National Pet Month. At first, you may not think they have anything in common, but for anyone who has ever had a pet in their life, you know how good they can be for your state of mind. In fact, a scientific study says owning a dog is linked with living longer. Ten studies that included more than three million participants showed that dog owners had a 24% risk reduction for death from any cause. But how do pets positively affect overall wellness? FirstLantic, a company devoted to quality healthcare, lists five benefits furry friends have on our health and well-being.

  1. Pet owners, especially those with dogs, often take advantage of the positive benefits of the outdoors and physical exercise.
  2. People aged 65 plus and have pets make over 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without a furry friend.
  3. Having a pet in your life lowers blood pressure in stressful situations. One study found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted shelter dogs, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months. Pet owners also have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
  4. Petting or playing with a pet can elevate serotonin and dopamine levels and provide sensory stress relief. Touch and movement are two healthy ways to manage stress quickly, and pet owners also suffer less from depression.
  5. Many pets, especially dogs, require regular feeding and exercise routines, which can keep their humans balanced as well. No matter your mood, one pensive look from your pet helps you get moving.

In addition to the benefits above, pets can also help you meet new friends or a significant other. Animal lovers tend to bond quickly over their mutual affection for their pets. Although some pet owners may still prefer the companionship of a furry friend over the humankind as it can be less complicated! Pets can be even more attuned to our emotions than other humans. They have learned to interpret behavior and gestures to gauge our moods as they have evolved. And when they look lovingly into our eyes, all our problems seem to melt away.

But despite all the benefits, it’s important to remember that a pet is a significant commitment and can be expensive, so make sure that you can take on the responsibility. If you aren’t quite ready, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still get many of the benefits of being around animals. For example, you can help out a neighbor by asking to walk their dog, volunteer at an animal shelter, or foster a pet.   Some shelters and rescue groups even offer pet “sharing” programs where adoptable dogs and cats can be taken for walks or playdates. And a variety of organizations offer specially trained therapy dogs and cats to visit children’s hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospice programs, shelters, and schools.   So, whether you decide to invite an animal into your life, either full or part-time, you will soon see why furry friends can help us live longer and happier lives.

 

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