We have all had long days at the office, days when nothing went our way, the boss’ constant haranguing or a client’s absolute irrationality, the reasons differ but the feeling stays the same. Imagine coming home after a day like this to a four legged friend who is thrilled to see you again. Dogs and cats are not only amazing pets, they are also a source of support, empathy and boundless love. A recent study at the Emory University by animal cognition scientists proved that dogs definitely look upon their owners and humans as their family. The love that we see in the eyes of our pet is not romantic imagination on our part, it is actually there.

Dogs are the only animal species that look humans in the eyes, apart from primates. Research also indicates that having feline companions can reduce the occurrence of anxiety and depression among younger children. Something as simple as watching your fishes swim around in the aquarium can actually lower the blood pressure. There are a whole host of reasons why having a pet is not only great therapy, it is a companionship unlike any other. Here are some reasons how a pet can be beneficial to your mental well-being:

A soothing presence

It has been noted by studies around the globe that having a pet can help reduce your blood pressure and heart rate when performing stress-full tasks. Research has gone on to say that patients coming back from heart-attacks recover faster and live longer when there are pets around them. It is almost as if their mere presence is beneficial to us. That happy little mutt licking your face can help reduce stress hormones in your body and helps boost the feel-good chemicals in your brain. A study among Chinese women found that women with dogs exercised more, slept better and reported better fitness levels. They provide a comforting presence during tense situations at home as well.

Gets you off the couch

One of the most important thing for your mental well-being is physical exercise. Having a dog ensures you get plenty of that. While a tank-full of fishes may not get you exercising, a dog can definitely manage that. They need to be walked several times a day and are generally high energy creatures who will always be ready to play. Dogs can actually make exercising fun, if you have not been inclined towards jogging watch that part of you change as soon as you bring a dog home. Feeding them, exercising them, training them, there is a whole list of activities that a dog forces you to do, all of which are extremely therapeutic to a stressed mind.

A sense of responsibility

Having a pet is not just a question of having a companion, it is also taking responsibility for another life. Pet-owners are usually seen referring to their pets as their babies, and it is true even when seen from the perspective of the four-legged ones. Dogs have been found to look upon their owners as their family and masters, the mere scent of who triggers the reward center in their brain. Having a pet forces upon the owner a set of responsibilities ranging from keeping them well-fed, clean, trained and healthy. These responsibilities distract a stressed individual from their own worries and helps balance perspectives. It gives you a sense of value and gives you a positive focus. The simple fact that you can support another life is a vastly fulfilling feeling.

A calming touch

The sense of physical touch is very important for human beings. Studies have been conducted showing how people feel better when they have more physical contact with others. It cannot be argued that there is something naturally calming about stroking a cat that refuses to leave the warmth of your lap. Something as simple as hugging can flood your body with oxytocin, a stress reducing hormone. Simple things like stroking a dog or a cat can increase the dopamine and serotonin levels in your blood.

Unconditional love

Your partner might throw a tantrum if you come home late from work, your dog will only jump that much higher to lick your face. There is no acceptance more absolute than that of a dog of its master. A study published in the Johns Hopkins Depression & Anxiety Bulletin, says that dogs can decrease feelings of loneliness. Having a dog waiting for you at home can be the perfect antidote to a long and stressful day and prove to be a positive distraction.

What do you think?