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Pets & Mental Health: They Go Hand in Paw

By Tyler Hicks...
 
Pets can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Plus, you know, they’re really, really cute.
 
As we continue to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, we take a paws to honor all that dogs, cats and many other pets do to help our mental wellbeing. Furry puns aside, the science is serious, and the research is clear: pets can be extremely beneficial to your mental health. 
 
Study after study has shown how powerful it can be to have a family pet. They give us unconditional, consistent love. On our darkest days, they’re there for us with a nudge and a snuggle, no questions asked. Let’s dive into the details.
 
Over three decades ago, a pair of researchers conducted what is believed to be the first published study on pets and mental health. Their question was simple: “What happens when you pet a dog?” Well, they discovered that your blood pressure goes down, your heart rate slows, your muscles relax, and your breathing becomes more regular. In other words, the simple act of petting a dog makes you healthier. 
 
This simple fact is why we have programs like Equine Assisted Therapy. These programs tap into the therapeutic power of animals, which has been shown to lower stress, protect children from anxiety, and even increase our sense of self-esteem. They also promote a healthy lifestyle.
 
How many times have you taken your pet for a walk? Better yet, how many times have you taken your pet outside? In simple, unseen ways, our pets promote the kind of lifestyle that makes us happier and healthier.
 
The many benefits of owning a pet are extensive, but arguably the most important is this: Pets remind us to take care of ourselves. The importance of self-care cannot be emphasized enough this month -- or any month. When you take care of yourself, you can truly thrive as you deserve to. You’ve probably heard someone say, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” Well, it’s just as important to be the person you deserve to be, which means taking care of yourself. Maybe that means going for a walk. Maybe that means reading a book. Whatever it means for you, embrace it -- because you deserve it.
 
Interested in reading more about the mental health impact of pets? Check this out from our friends at Mental Health America > “For Better Mental Health, Experience the Pet Effect”

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