If you have a pet, you already know how good it feels to love your little companion. But did you know that this particular kind of love also holds the power to heal you?
Imagine arriving home after a challenging day. You open the door, hang up your coat and wrap your arms around the furry friend who is always incredibly excited to greet you. As you stroke Fido’s velvety ears and rub his tummy, the stress of your day melts away.
Experiencing this loving moment with an animal doesn’t just feel good. It’s good for you—in measurable physiological ways. Research has shown that the loving bond you share with a pet is the key to a range of positive health outcomes.
Owning a pet—or even spending time with someone else’s—is linked with these 3 benefits.
1. Elevates your mood
Experiencing a loving moment with your pet, through cuddles or playtime, has a big chemical impact on you. It lowers the levels of cortisol (stress hormones) in your blood and increases the levels of dopamine (the “feel good” chemical) in your brain. This means pet ownership provides positive mood benefits. And, of course, lower stress levels are linked with a whole range of health benefits.
2. Improves your heart health
Owning a pet can lower your blood pressure—and your risk of heart disease. Since the 1980s, researchers have known that heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who didn’t. Around the same time, they also discovered that petting an animal (even a snake!) can lower your blood pressure and relax your muscles.
3. Stimulates oxytocin, the “love drug”
When you physically bond with other human beings, the hormone oxytocin is released, helping you feel positive and trusting. It turns out that your brain doesn’t discriminate between species because loving your pet also releases significant amounts of this love drug. Oxytocin is linked with health benefits like lower cortisol levels and better sleep. So cuddle your way to better health!