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  • Writer's picturePositive Paws

Warm Fuzzies

woman hugging dog

Wondering what I would write about this week, I came across an article  that resonated with me personally. It is in the Jan/Feb issue of Real Simple magazine. Pets have helped me through so many of the ups and downs of my  life. I am pretty positive most of you can relate.  

Here are the highlights from that article: 

There’s no denying that the unconditional love from a four-legged friend  makes us happy. We’re all pretty much aligned on that: Almost 90% of dog  and cat owners said their pets have a positive impact on their mental health, according to a recent poll by the American Psychiatric Association. “I’m an  absolute believer that my life has been made richer through my experience  with animals,” says Hal Herzog, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology at  Western California University, who studies animal behavior. Herzog adds  that, while we can be sure our pets brighten our days, he and his colleagues  are still studying the science behind how they do it. 

To help maximize these following benefits, experts advise squeezing in as  much together time as you can. Megan Mueller, PhD, who leads the Pets and  Well-Being Lab at Tufts University says, “A colleague of mine is fond of  saying that having a pet is like having a bike. If it’s sitting in the garage  collecting dust, it’s not doing much good.” 

They Boost Feel-Good Hormones 

Ruff day? Numerous studies find that when you love on a furry creature,  your levels of the stress hormone cortisol can go down, and your levels of  the “happy” hormone oxytocin (which makes you feel calm and safe and  helps lower your blood pressure) can go up. 

They Provide Companionship 

Your dog can be like a BFF. Pets have the power to decrease loneliness.  They’re great listeners! Of course, pets can’t give advice, but don’t you feel  better after unburdening yourself? 

They Make Us More Social

Pet’s bring people together. “You’re significantly more likely to talk to  people on the street when you’re walking your dog,” Herzog says. Chatting  up a fellow cat lover or someone at the dog park fulfills a basic human need  to connect with others and increases what experts call your “relational  diversity,” the amount of time you spend talking to different types of  people. 

They Encourage Mindfulness 

When Bones McFluff demands pats, he’s not worrying about the past or  future. He’s living in the moment, and can help you do the same. “Interacting with animals often gets our mind off other things for at least a few  minutes, which is a brief exercise in mindfulness,” says Andrea Beetz, PhD,  professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Germany. Mindfulness  can reduce stress and anxiety, sharpen focus, and promote a good night’s  sleep. Even a little can help; Dog owners who gave their pooches at least  seven minutes of undivided attention each week felt more relaxed during  the exercise. So get to it and dole out those belly rubs! 

Gail Moscato 


Positive Paws BHC

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