Stress Relief & Pets, Even A Short Time With A Dog Or Cat Is Healthy:
With Depression and Anxiety at all-time highs as common mental-health issues,
Many sufferers of these problems might agree, along with the career-focused people,
That Stress is a major concern in daily-life.
And because it seems to be everywhere, stress-management and reduction is a major-concern, too.
Some people try exercise, yoga, meditation, medication, alcohol, CBD, etc.
But one of the most-overlooked and also most-effective avenues of stress-reduction could actually be laying across your keyboard or dropping a tennis ball at your feet…
But What About A Pet?:
So we can sometimes have a tendency to think about a pet as just an accessory to the house.
A sort of mobile-decoration with a quirky personality.
Maybe if we take the time to concentrate on the subject, then the emotional-connection becomes a bit easier to articulate,
Maybe with a little bit of anthropomorphism thrown in, too.
But the most we usually come up with for a pet is that they can be a good friend and a respected member of the extended-family.
However, the short answer for WSU’s research is that they are much more than that, and a positive, measurable influence on your health that actually lowers key biochemicals tied to stressful-responses.
Read on to find out the details…
As Usual, The Internet Is Really Onto Something:
So the internet is full of crazy cat videos, and silly dogs being good boys, etc.
But for awhile, researchers have been wondering if there’s more to pet ownership than an obsession with what’s cute & a reliable source of easy laughs.
Well they might be the only ones, because unless it’s something specialized like a seeing-eye dog, we don’t often think of animals as a life-factor like something medical or health-related.
But as time goes by, and more different types of people and their peculiarities are studied, the more interesting results science seems to find.
Those results can also tend to percolate from the edge-cases right on down to regular people like you and me.
To the point where it looks like if your furry friend hasn’t saved your life yet, they soon will.
Or barring-that, they are certainly likely to make it both longer and healthier.
So Here’s The Good News On Pets Reducing Your Stress!:
How? Well, in a study by Patricia Pendry of WSU, about 250 students were divided into four groups.
One group got to interact with cats and dogs in small groups.
The other three student groups were increasingly isolated from the animals.
-Right down to the fourth group being told they were waitlisted for the project.
The students in group one could pet the animals, play with them, and interact as they wished.
All groups had their stress-levels measured as a function of the biochemical Cortisol present in their saliva.
This was taken both at the beginning of the day, and after the experiment.
And the difference in stress-levels was significant.
Not only was the change just significant, but this reduction held even for students who started-out the day first thing with a high level of stress.
The Opposite Was True For Pet-Avoiders, Plus A Startling Stat:
Conversely, the other groups of students probably had stress exaggerated or induced in them.
Group 2 watched the interactions, but was not allowed to participate or interrupt.
Group 3 watched a slideshow of photos of the animals in-question.
And as we said earlier, Group 4 was waitlisted and told to sit and wait with no distractions like phones, books, magazines, etc.
They were also told during their waiting session that their turn would come up soon, but never did.
Oh, and the key factor in the miracle-change for the more-fortunate Group 1?
They only interacted with the animals for 10 minutes.
10 minutes, and it still dropped their stress-levels significantly!
So Why Does This Matter?:
Stress has been shown to affect many parts of health in serious ways that are not always easy to remember,
Especially because we often see it as unavoidable and part of a standard day.
It turns out that Stress is a big factor in overall health.
The British Whitehall Study even suggests uncontrollable chronic stress could be deadly.
It’s so bad for you, it even negates the benefits of eating healthy.
Anyone who’s had a really bad stress-incident where cortisol is dumped into the bloodstream realizes this. The day is pretty much over after that.
Though we take them for-granted, Fight-or-flight hormones really are no joke and are only there for actual emergencies.
Just try working off that biochemical-blitz. Most people aren’t even fit enough to exercise as long as it would take to do it.
Here Are Some Of The Health Problems Stress Is Associated With:
4) Cardiovascular Disease of all types
5) Hardening of the Arteries
6) Whole-body Inflammation
7) Immune System malfunction
8) Depression & Anxiety
9) Obesity due to “Stress Eating”
13) Accelerated Aging
14) Early Death
How To Dump Stress When It Dumps On You:
So conversely, because Stress is no joke to your health, then getting rid of it shouldn’t be either.
Here are a few of the standard & not-so-standard ways people do this:
1) Cardiovascular Exercise
2) Mindfulness Meditation
3) Integrating a Long Walk into the day
4) Taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator
5) Avoiding Inflammatory Foods like Sugar, Corn-Oil, Canola Oil, Deep-Fried Foods, and Ultra-Processed Foods
6) Forest Bathing
7) Deep Breathing even without Meditation
8) Automatic Writing of Worries for 5 minutes non-stop (and then deleting the document and sometimes shredding or burning a printout of it afterward.)
9) Connecting with Friends & (if non-problematic) Family
10) Enforcing perfect Sleep-habits & quality
11) Taking stress-relieving Supplements like
11a) Lemon Balm
11c) Fish Oil
12) Reducing Caffeine Intake, or Eliminating it for a certain timeframe
13) Watch a Show or Movie that you find really Funny
14) Practice Assertiveness or even take a class
16) The Danish practice of Hygge (pr. ho-gah)
(putting yourself in a situation with surroundings that give you the “warm fuzzy” feeling, like your favorite movie, weekend break destination, restaurant, etc.)
The last point of-course on that list would be spending time with your pet if you have the space in your life.
And if you don’t own one, you could find one in other ways, like through a friend, a cat-cafe, or even volunteering at a shelter.
Similar Studies Show Even Greater Benefits:
Still different ones show that the health-effects of having a pet are so great, that they even help survival-rates of heart-attack survivors 1 year later.
The correlation with 1-year survival rates was even greater for pet-ownership than that of social-support.
Another study showed that cat owners have a 30% lower risk of even having the heart-attack in the first place. This is also likely-true for dogs.
Other studies have shown it doesn’t just reduce cortisol, it decreases heart-rate, blood-pressure, blood-sugar, and also increases Oxytocin, the bonding-hormone, too.
So just like people who spend time in nature, this also means that pet-owners are probably calmer in-general for a greater percentage of their lives.
This may skew a little bit more toward cats, because they can be lap-animals a little bit more easily and so can spend more time directly with their owners.
A Few More Benefits, And Some Limitations:
Other benefits that come-along with pet ownership or may increase the benefits on the main issue of Stress include:
1) Reduced Allergies for children
2) Reduced Frequency of Auto-Immune Disorders
3) Improved Sleep
The benefits probably include some reduction in all the previously-stated risk-factors for Stress, too.
Not just the ones from the heart-attack studies.
As long as you have the time, money, and ability to care for the animal, then the same benefits can be yours.
Though WSU’s next project will, the current study didn’t look-at periods longer than 10 minutes to see if they can reduce your cortisol more and for longer.
Also, they did not look into chronic pet-ownership and make it possible for them to say for example,
That pet owners have lower overall stress-hormones than everyone.
If they could, then pet-ownership may also mean fewer visits to the doctor for their owners, as fewer total health problems may also be in the cards.
So dogs and cats could end-up helping pay for their own upkeep, too.
Remember To Thank Your Fuzzy Friends!:
So an animal-friend may not just be an amusement or a furry member of the family,
But an actual source of good health, and longer life.
Besides, who doesn’t always need a laugh or two with a good friend anyway?
Sometimes it’s hard to look at the world in new ways,
And it’s easy to overlook things, get mentally-lazy, and think in the same old way.
But there really are several different facets that impact on health, and many ways to improve it.
It’s not all just salads and yoga.
Even if owning a cat or dog and petting it 10 minutes a day doesn’t actually save your life, it could almost-certainly make it better, healthier, and less-stressful.
Photo Credits: “Dog friendship nature”, by Lepale
• Source: WSU
• Source Studies:
• SageAERA Open – Animal Visitation Program (AVP) Reduces Cortisol Levels of University Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial
• AHA – Pet Ownership, but Not ACE Inhibitor Therapy, Blunts Home Blood Pressure Responses to Mental Stress
• Anthrozoos – Short-Term Interaction between Dogs and Their Owners: Effects on Oxytocin, Cortisol, Insulin and Heart Rate—An Exploratory Study
• J.MentalHealth – The feasibility of brief dog-assisted therapy on university students stress levels: the PAwS study