Most of us have had a pet during some part of our life. It may have been a dog, a cat, a bird, a hamster, a horse, or even a fish. The excitement upon meeting them for the first time brings us a spike of endorphins. We have adopted a new family member to love, nurture, and who will spend time with us.

Did you know that having a pet may have direct positive benefits on your health, both physically and emotionally? Scientific studies have shown that owning a pet can help improve a person’s well-being by lowering their blood pressure and decreasing cortisol levels, the stress hormone.

Besides the physical benefits, there are also emotional benefits. Studies have shown that certain pets can reduce anxiety levels. Have you ever come home to your pet and cried yourself to sleep, while holding them in your arms? Or what about talking to your pet – they don’t talk back, but the ability to talk out loud helps a person to organize and process their thoughts. And how wonderful it is to have a pet at home with you when you may be home alone, helping us to feel connected and safe, whether your pet is a dog, cat, or even a horse.

Are you a cat or dog person? It doesn’t really matter because we generally pick our pets by our personalities. Personally, I like both cats and dogs. Cats have an attitude with the ability to make you laugh, while in a moments time, they are laying in your lap, cuddling. Whereas their counterpart, the dog, is protective, loving, and a great companion to spend time with traveling, going on runs, hiking, or whatever you love to do.

Depression is a mental disorder characterized by persistent sadness and lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities. Some studies show that having a pet doesn’t help with depression, whereas others agree that it does have a direct and indirect effect. I believe that having a pet does significantly improve one’s mental health, even if it is indirectly related, especially if you are fond of having pets and loving animals.

First, when you own a pet, you are forced to drag yourself out of bed to feed them, take them out to go to the bathroom, and play or walk with them. The simple act of getting out of bed stimulates our mind by creating endorphins, and other similar chemicals in our brain, which elevate our mood.

Secondly, it helps us to feel better about ourselves when we are pouring love into our pets, giving us a sense of belonging and purpose, by knowing that something needs you. Subsequently, the petting motion takes our minds off our anxiety, calming our minds, slowing down our rapid breathing, and even sometimes taking our minds off of what is bothering us, at least for a little bit.

Third, having certain pets, such as a dog or horse, we have a companion, a friend to go on hikes with, riding in the forest, or simply walking around the block or stables. Indirectly, we have decided to go out and do something that brings us pleasure, as well as a new perspective and a peaceful mind. Without that pet, we may have decided to stay in bed, eating the tub of ice cream while watching Netflix – which is okay to do sometimes.

Pets are beneficial in so many ways. Directly and indirectly, altering our behaviors, our perspectives about our lives, and giving us healthy outlets to be creative, active, and healthier. We all wish to be loved and to love – what better way than by loving and caring for an animal – your best friend.

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