Feel better after cuddling your pet?

Spending 10 to 15 minutes with a friendly pet reduces anxiety, sadness, pain, and fatigue

When you’re having a rough day or a lot of stress, nothing beats petting and snuggling with your favorite pet. After some ear scratches and unloading your burdens into your pet’s listening ear, you’re bound to feel better. Studies have shown spending 10 to 15 minutes with a friendly pet reduces anxiety, sadness, pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. Research shows that spending time with a friendly pet not only makes you feel better; petting your dog or cat makes your body reduce the chemicals that can be responsible for a variety of disturbing symptoms.

This spring, the journal Current Pain and Headache Reports, will publish an article I wrote describing the science behind why cuddling a friendly pet makes us feel better. Scientists have proven that sitting and petting a dog, for example, changes levels of a variety of chemicals that help reduce common symptoms. Petting a dog:

  • Reduces stress hormone levels, like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol
  • Increases levels of endorphins–your body’s natural pain killers
  • Increases levels of oxytocin, which also reduces stress and pain responses

These studies show that spending time with your pet helps reduce chemicals that cause unpleasant symptoms to make you healthier.

Studies also show that these important chemical changes happen after spending a short time connecting with a pet. For example, significant drops in the stress hormone cortisol have been documented after people spend just five minutes petting a friendly dog. After spending a few minutes with your favorite pet, you may find your blood pressure is lower, your breathing is more relaxed, your muscles are less tense, and you’re feeling better. So when you’re having a rough day, whistle for Max and tap into your pet’s healing power. You’ll feel and be healthier after connecting with your favorite friendly pet.

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