If you’re reading this blog, chances are, you love animals and know just how wonderful they can be. Despite our shortcomings, they tend to love us unconditionally. There’s no doubt that animals bring an enormous amount of joy into our lives, but did you know they can positively impact our physical, mental, and emotional health in a significant way as well? Here’s more on that. . .
Pets’ Impact on Physical Health
It’s no surprise that people who have pets (especially dogs and horses) are more likely to get outside, exercise, and even socialize, but research also shows that just being around your pet can decrease blood pressure as well as cholesterol and triglyceride levels. During stressful situations, companion animals can even help regulate their human’s heart rate.
In one study, researchers measured changes in heart rate and blood pressure among people who had a dog or cat compared with non-pet owners and found that those with pets had lower resting heart rates and blood pressure at the start of the experiment than those without pets.
Studies also show that children who are exposed to animals early in life tend to develop stronger immune systems, reducing their likelihood of developing related allergies by as much as 33 percent.
And yet another study found that adults who spent 15 minutes with a dog after joint replacement surgery used less pain medication than those who didn’t have the opportunity to do this.
And these are just a few of the ways animals can be beneficial for our physical health!
Pets’ Impact on Mental and Emotional Health
Because animals can also have a profound effect on our mental and emotional health, it’s not uncommon to find animal-assisted therapy taking place in hospitals, nursing homes, and even special education classrooms these days.
Some grief camps for children offer an opportunity to work through emotions of loss with the
help of dogs or horses. Animal-assisted therapy has also proven beneficial for elderly adults who can no longer care for an animal on their own. Just being around a therapy animal can bring back positive emotions from when they had their own pets and reduce feelings sadness and loneliness.
Additional effects of animal-assisted therapy (for both children and adults) include:
- Decreased stress levels
- Reduced anger and aggression
- Decreased hostility toward self and others
- Improved social interactions
- Improved self-esteem
- Sense of empowerment
Many individuals’ lives have been dramatically improved thanks to personal service or assistance animals. Most of us are familiar with guide dogs for the blind, but there are many functions animals can assist with. For example, some people have emotional support animals to help them better cope with their psychological disorder. The presence of their pet can be extremely important in their ability to function normally in day to day life.
Animals truly are amazing in their capacity to love and serve us!