More and more studies are confirming the beneficial power that living with a pet has on our health. This is because the affective bond that is created provides us with great benefits in our perception of well-being.
How do pets provide us with these benefits?
First of all, they decrease depressive symptoms by increasing mood. They also decrease anxious symptoms. Just by having someone to take care of and who depends on us, we focus our attention on the animal and its care, and therefore we are further away from negative, obsessive thoughts or self-attentional processes: to be watching us to see how we are doing. The more we are aware of ourselves, the more we will notice anxiety, and the more easily negative automatic thoughts will be triggered.
On the other hand, the only positive interaction with animals, according to several studies, lowers blood pressure. And why is this so? Because, among other things, we generate more dopamine (a hormone related to the feeling of happiness) and, therefore, decrease the secretion of other hormones that produce the opposite effect, i.e., raise the level of stress.
It also helps to mitigate loneliness. This is so for two reasons: on the one hand, the mere company of our pet, makes us move away from the feeling of loneliness. We feel accompanied and that they are watching over us at all times. And, on the other hand, in the case of dogs, it forces us to be more active, since it requires walks, exercise, which can lead us to socialize with other dog owners.
Finally, animals transmit their love to us. This acts in a reciprocal way, also from us towards them. This interaction of such a positive emotion as love, more in this case of unconditional love, has a direct impact on our mood. It also makes us give a new meaning to life: taking care of someone who depends on us.