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Pet Therapy – How cats and dogs can lower levels of stress

27th February 2020

Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death


When the end of a calendar year approaches and friends and colleagues discuss what they’ll do differently once the clock chimes midnight on December 31, you very rarely hear anyone say that their new year’s resolution is to reduce stress. Which makes no sense at all when you consider that chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung issues, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.

In America, over 75% of all GP visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. It’s a problem of major significance and of epidemic proportions – the bottom line is, we must all actively be looking to reduce our levels of stress.

Animals and stress reduction

One solution for lowering stress and minimising the impact of stress-related hormones is both simple and rewarding. That solution? Get a pet.

The Science

Khody Damestani, co-founder of mental health and well-being company, MyMindPal, is a huge advocate of pet therapy.

“You can lower stress using various methods which we’d also highly recommend, from meditation and mindfulness, to staying present by focusing on just one task at a time. But having a pet is a huge positive, with studies showing that petting and playing with animals actively reduces stress-related hormones,” says Khody.

“Playing with a dog or cat raises our levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are hormones that calm the nervous system. And these benefits can occur within no time at all – just a few short minutes.

“Interacting with a family pet also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as increasing the rate of oxytocin release, which naturally reduces stress. On top of that, stroking a pet lowers blood pressure, and if you’re lowering your blood pressure then you’re inadvertently lowering stress.”

Lowering stress levels can save lives!

“I can’t stress – pardon the pun – how important this is. Chronic stress can directly affect your brain. It negatively affects your immune system and ability to heal. It can cause blood sugar imbalances, and decrease bone density and muscle tissue, as well as increasing your blood pressure and levels of bad cholesterol which directly correlate to heart attacks and strokes.”

“Without wishing to sound over-dramatic, lowering your stress levels could save your life. And getting yourself a pet is a positive step in the right direction.”

Final thoughts

Most people’s new year resolutions are, by now, a dim and distant memory. However, the desire to lower levels of stress should be a 365-day a year, 24-7 commitment, because stress is a killer; pure and simple.

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