Want to Improve Work-Life Balance? Get a Pet!
By Guest Writer, Julie Morris
Ever since humans first domesticated animals¹ tens of thousands of years ago, they have provided constant companionship for people around the world. In our fast-paced modern world, people frequently feel over-worked, and research indicates this has a negative effect² on our lives as well as on our productivity. Luckily, there is an increasing body of evidence that pets can improve quality of life, reduce stress, and boost our health. Here are some ways pet companionship can be good for your mental and physical well-being:
1. Reduce Stress
Studies have shown pets of all kinds reduce stress in humans while improving health and vitality. Did you know that pets can actually lower levels of cortisol, the human stress hormone? A recent European study³ showed that interacting with dogs helped reduce cortisol levels during public speaking and presentations, too. Similarly, cats, rabbits, hedgehogs, or any pet that you adore and puts you at ease will help reduce your cortisol levels and boost your mood.
2. Get Active
If you’ve made a resolution to get more physically active this year, consider recruiting your pet as a workout partner. Some dog breeds are great running buddies, while cats’ playful nature make them ever-ready for a game of chase or hide and seek. Additionally, all dogs and cats require some level of exercise — by including them in your physical activity, you’re taking care of yourself and your four-legged friend!
3. Improve Heart Health
Pets might counteract the physical stress brought on by your job. In addition to reducing stress, multiple scientific studies show pets can lower blood pressure⁴, improve cholesterol and promote heart health in humans. Since heart disease⁵ has become the leading cause of death in America, these findings are reassuring.
4. Boost Your Mood
Did you know petting your dog or cat can boost your mood?⁶ That’s because physical touch — be it petting, cuddling, hugging or eye-gazing — all release the feel-good hormone oxytocin⁷. And when you feel happy, you are more likely to feel social — and have more energy for work and play!
5. Playtime and Breaks
Our pets prioritize playtime and are always eager to remind us when it is time for a break. These activities are good for our pets — and for us, too. Interacting with our pets takes our mind off our to-do lists, project due dates, our upcoming presentations, and all the other tasks on our plates. This doesn’t mean you have to procrastinate on your responsibilities, but even just a five-minute break can bring some refreshing fun back into your daily routine.
6. Get Social
Many pet parents love the social element of having planned puppy or kitten play dates with friends. Dogs can also be an excuse to go outside. If your dog enjoys swimming, it can be fun to plan a trip to the lake with a group of friends — and have them bring their dogs, too! If you live in a cooler climate, you might find that many dogs enjoy playing in the snow. And regardless of where you live or what type of dog you have, it’s always easy to plan a walk around the park with your favorite two-legged and four-legged friends.
If you and your friends have cats, you can bring your social scene to the great indoors. Inviting a pal and her feline friend over for an afternoon of movie-watching can be a great way for each of you to spend quality time with your kitties while still hanging out with each other. If your cats spend enough time together, they may even become buddies themselves!
Pets can be a great way to return to being present in the moment. They put life’s stresses into perspective, reminding us to slow down and make time for playful interactions. Pet companionship is a huge commitment that isn’t right for everyone. However, if you feel up to the responsibility, it can reward you with a long-lasting, one-of-a-kind friendship that boosts your happiness, benefits your well-being, and balances your life.Additional resource information:
1 Domesticated animals
2 Negative affect
3 European study
4 Lower blood pressure
5 Heart disease
6 Boost your mood