Pets and stress relief go together!

What do you think about that statement?

Do you think pets and stress relief go together? I'm here to tell you they do.

A related question is what does your significant other and your dog have in common? Keep reading for the answer:-)

A phrase that is often used to describe your reaction to stress is the tend-and-befriend response.

The tend-and-befriend response has been studied by University of California, Los Angeles, psychologist Shelley Taylor, PhD. Dr. Taylor observed that when you are stressed, you are likely to tend to others who may need help, such as small children.

The biological basis for this behavioral response to stress is programmed into your body through your neuroendocrine system. When you encounter stress, your pituitary gland produces a hormone that you seldom hear discussed.

Of course, cortisol and adrenalin are the well known stress hormones but there is another. The stress hormone that is not so famous is oxytocin.

Oxytocin has been called the cuddle hormone because it is released when you cuddle, hug, kiss, and so on. Oxytocin makes you more social.

When oxytocin is released, you want to be around other people, especially people you are close to, such as family and friends. You want to experience social interaction, in short, to befriend others.

What's more, you become more socially helpful; you tend to others.

Being around and helping others reduces your feelings of stress. It may even help reduce the cause of the stress. After all, two heads are better than one and there's safety in numbers.

The oxytocin that is released when you are stressed also has health benefits, especially for your heart. It reduces your risk of having a heart attack during times of high stress.

But what does all of this have to do with pets and stress relief?

I'll tell you.

Oxytocin is released in both you and your pet dog or cat when you interact with each other. Therefore, oxytocin is what links pets and stress relief together.

You are stressed; you tend to your dog or cat; oxytocin is released and you feel less stressed!

In my stress relief workshops, I often ask participants if they are dog people or cat people?

Dog people always out number cat people. Even though there are a lot of people who love cats, there are a lot more who love dogs.

Want to know why?

It may be because of oxytocin. The amount of oxytocin that is released is much greater in your dog than in your cat when you pet them.

Does this suggest that dogs love us more than cats?

Maybe...and maybe that is why more people seem to enjoy having a pet dog than a pet cat. What do you think?

What about pets and stress relief when the pet is some other animal?

According to the American Institute of Stress, research has found that interacting with birds, reptiles, aquarium fish and horses can also relieve stress.

You can even experience the pets and stress relief effect without getting up close to the animals; that is, the attention you play to the animals can be from afar. Birdwatching and feeding wild birds are activities that have been found to reduce stress.

What's more, the object of your tending behavior doesn't necessarily have to be another person or animal. Tending to plants has a similar effect.

Here is a stress relief tip -- when you are stressed-out, do something to tend to or befriend someone else, even if that someone else is a fur person, a feather person, a fin person, or a leaf person. It will make you feel better and you will be healthier as a result.

Are you still wondering what your significant other and your dog have in common? Both trigger the release of oxytocin as you interact with them.


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