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Have you ever come home from a long day at work feeling exhausted, frustrated, and down? Does seeing your dog greeting you at the door instantly change your mood? Do you feel comforted when sitting down and petting your cat?
No, pets don’t have magic powers, but it can sometimes feel like it with the way they boost your mood. The reality is, pets have a calming connection with the human brain. It’s one of the reasons they are used as service and therapy animals.
Pets can cause gamma oscillations in the brain, leading to a feeling of excitement when you see them. But, they can also help you to feel calm, happy, and even hopeful. With that in mind, let’s look into how your brain reacts to your pet, and why having a four-legged friend around can be beneficial to your overall health and wellbeing.
The Stress Factor
According to the Cleveland Clinic, petting an animal can boost serotonin in the brain and lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. As a result, a pet can lower your blood pressure and heart rate. That can be beneficial for older individuals who struggle with health issues, or even teenagers who are dealing with stress, by causing them to become more mindful of the present moment instead of worrying about the past or future.
The release of dopamine and Oxytocin in the brain that results from simply being around an animal or interacting with them can help you to get through some of life’s most stressful situations. Additionally, pets can help with:
Simply playing with a pet can release stress-reducing hormones for anywhere from 1-3 hours, and the release of Oxytocin can help you to feel a closer bond with your pet. Oxytocin increases your level of trust. While it’s typically the trust you feel for another person, it can certainly transfer to your pet(s) as well. That could be one reason why you’re so willing to be yourself around your pet because you know fully that they won’t judge you or love you any less.
Pets Improve Your Wellbeing
It’s no secret that owning a pet can help to improve your physical health. They are natural encouragers and motivators when it comes to getting up and moving. Because pets need regular exercise, they can give you the boost you may need to start taking better care of your physical health, too.
But, when it comes to how they impact the brain, they also help with your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Your brain programs things like consistency, effort, and adaptability into memories that can impact your perspective on life as well as your emotional health. When you’re trying to overcome certain obstacles, learn something new, or just get through a specific season of life in a healthy and effective way, it often takes discipline and hard work.
Subtle signs can tell you that you need to spend more time with your pet, including a lack of motivation, not putting in the effort you should, and excess stress from not being able to adapt. Because your animal can help to reduce stress within the brain, they can also help you to remain focused and process things in a positive and forward-thinking way. The next time you come home from that long day at the office, it is worth it to thank your pet for the joy they bring into your life and the actual science behind it that allows you to let go of your stress and anxiety and replace it with hormones that help you to feel happy. That’s something that deserves some extra belly rubs.