Did you know that having a pet may actually increase the length and quality of your life? Recent research1 indicates that having a pet may be one of the best investments you can ever make in your health.
The Need to Belong
Everyone likes to feel wanted—it’s a basic need. Individuals like to feel appreciated and need to feel they belong. This is a form of social support. If we are denied this sensation, we can become ill. In fact, the lack of social support can negatively impact various areas of our health and welfare.
While many look to other humans to obtain this sense of belonging, research2 indicates it is not the sole source of this sensation. In fact, animals are capable of providing many individuals with this sense of belonging that is essential to our sense of well-being.
Why a Pet?
Research done in 2011 reported the amazing affects of having a pet. The study published in the December issue of the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology found various positive health effects derived from having a pet. They noted pet owners had:
Enjoyed increased well-being
An improved sense of social coping
Overall, those individuals who had pets were not rejecting human companionship or interaction. Having a pet complemented their human relationships. Moreover, pets helped their owners fight off any negative feelings created if they were rejected.
More Health Benefits
Animals, such as dogs and cats, help improve your health in a number of ways. Research has also indicated that petting an animal can actually reduce stress. The decrease in tension can, therefore, manifest itself in reduced health problems such as hypertension and cardio-vascular issues. As a result, the individual who has a pet and expresses their affection by stroking or petting them receives positive health effects.
Ownership of an animal can also help stave off depression. Moreover, if you have a dog, you have a responsibility—you have a reason for getting up every morning! This helps take you out of focusing on yourself and more on the needs of your dependant. Animals provide you with companionship and a sense of being wanted. Their needs and their response to your care are very therapeutic.
If you have a dog, chances are you’ll have to walk him or her on a regular basis. Walking is one of the all-time best and least expensive cardiovascular activities. Dog owners walk their animals around the block, to the store, in parks, and along trails. They become involved in play by throwing sticks and balls. They also become part of a larger community, befriending or becoming acquaintances with other dog owners who walk their dogs.
Walking a dog can turn into a social activity on a number of levels. You interact with other dog owners, discussing health and behavioral issues. You talk about diet and training and veterinarians. Even if you do not associate with other dog walkers, dog walking is a way of meeting your neighbors. You become aware of who lives on your block and meet many you might not normally come into contact with. Being a pet owner of any type also leads you into discussions at the various pet stores.
Pets act as a significant source of social support. In return for your affection and feeding, they supply you with innumerable affirmative physical and psychological benefits. Having pets is not for everyone, but it gives those who love animals another reason to rejoice.