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Have you ever had a time when you were stressed, but just didn’t want to talk to anyone or interact with any person?  In this blog we’ve talked a lot about how important it is to reach out and connect when you’re feeling stressed or down…but sometimes in the moment, it just doesn’t feel right.

So now what?

Sometimes the answer is right next to us on the sofa, or running around the yard, or by the food bowl on the floor.

Pets have been shown to be a really effective way to lower stress.  In fact, Johns Hopkins  reports that in one study that 84% of people with post-traumatic stress disorder reported a significant drop in symptoms with a service dog.

It doesn’t have to be a service dog, though. Dogs, cats, even other animals like horses or goats, have been shown to help relieve stress. How can this be?

Research shows that simply petting an animal like a dog actually lowers the stress hormone cortisol, and when people pet their animals it increases the “feel-good” hormone oxytocin. Let’s face it, sometimes animals are goofy and funny and make us laugh. That laughter also relieves stress and reduces tension.

The health benefits don’t stop there, though. Lower cortisol and more oxytocin also help lower your blood pressure. Playing with a pet lifts our spirits; talking them for a walk gets us outside in a relaxed non-work way. And sometimes, when we need a little comfort, quietly petting an animal and feeling their unconditional love can be the most helpful thing in the world.

Next time you’re feeling stressed, but in the moment you just don’t have the energy to talk to someone, try playing with or petting or even talking to your dog (or other animal). You’ll get the boost you need to keep thriving!

To learn more, check out these websites from the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health.

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