8 Ways Your Pet Can Help Relieve Your Stress

5. Pets help you be in the moment. "Stress really is bemoaning the past and worrying about the future," Dr. Beck says. So keeping your attention on the present can help reduce stress, and whether it's a meditative walk — as long as you put down that phone! — or a vigorous game of fetch, interacting with your pet keeps your focus on the now.

6. Pets lower stress by fulfilling our need for touch, which we find comforting. And what's more, they feel the same way about it. If you're grooming a horse, not only will you experience the relaxation response, Beck says, but put your hand on the horse, and you'll feel its heart rate slow down. Same when you pet your dog: "There's a certain excitement at first, but then its heart rate goes down."

7. Pets seem to help support feelings that make you more resilient at dealing with stress. One study from psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University showed that pet owners had better self-esteem and tended to be less lonely, less fearful, less depressed and less preoccupied than people without pets — and that all of these qualities correlated with feeling less perceived stress. This help with long-term stress management may be why some studies have shown that pet owners have lower blood pressure on average than non-owners.

8. Finally, they make us laugh! "We find humor watching them, and laughter is another way of mitigating stress," Dr. Beck says.

And none of this is surprising, he says, because our interactions with our pets are so similar to our interactions with other people: "You feel less stress in the company of a trusted friend, and we view our companion animals as trusted friends."

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