Buster can help you beat the winter blues
It’s easy to see why the third Monday in January is known as ‘Blue Monday’. The buzz of Christmas is over, the weather is gloomy and so is your bank balance. But a remedy to the January blues could very well be sitting right at your feet as you read this. Pets have been found to lift our spirits, with the effect increasing the more time you spend with them.
Blue Monday falls on January 16th this year, so we have been investigating the positive vibes that our pets can bring to our lives, to help you escape any negative feelings this month.
If you are still considering whether to welcome a furry friend into your home, after hearing about their mood-enhancing benefits, you may well decide that 2017 is the year you should.
Better Self Esteem
Your pet is the ultimate companion – they shower you with unconditional love and are totally non-judgmental. Unlike children who usually grow up to become self-sufficient adults, pets will always make you feel needed – to take them for a walk, fill up their food bowls or just to give them some much appreciated attention.
The presence of a pet in the family home has been linked to an increase in self-esteem by a 2011 study. The research summarised that pet owners also had a greater sense of belonging and reported a more meaningful existence than non pet-owners.
Increased Physical Activity
Exercise is strongly linked to an increase in happiness. Physical activity releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone. It can also improve the quality of our sleep, and a rested body and mind is vital to our general wellbeing.
Even if you don’t own a pet, or are not the one who normally walks your dog, chances are that you will still get more exercise than your non-pet owning counterparts. This is probably on account of the ‘running around’ you do, feeding, emptying litter trays if you have a cat etc.
Owning a pet has an association with better cardiovascular health, which can reduce the risk of a heart attack. It is unclear whether this is because people with dogs, for example, are likely to exercise more, or whether there are additional factors at play, such as the presence of a pet providing the type of support which helps you to adopt or stick with a healthy habit, like a better diet. Whatever the reason, we’ll take it!
A Sense of Belonging
As humans, we are programmed to feel good when we feel connected to other humans, and our pets can help make that happen.
Have you noticed how you end up having conversations with total strangers while you’re out walking Buster? And when you post a cute pic or video of your four-legged friend on Facebook, lots of your friends and family like or comment with their own funny stories? All of these interactions help to make us feel included and involved, which can boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
If our days have a recognisable routine, it brings a calming influence to our lives. Owning a pet means regular mealtimes, walks, and other activities that give us daily structure, and therefore leads to increased happiness.
The joy of having affectionate pets
Research from the University of Missouri-Columbia found that petting your pooch sets the production of the hormones serotonin and oxytocin soaring – two of the four chemicals responsible for making us feel happy. It also found that running your hand against your dog’s coat decreases your cortisol level, which is a hormone responsible for feelings of stress.
We can think of no better excuse for taking some time out for a cuddle with your pet!
Spreading the joy with PAT Dog
Here at HiLife we enjoy working with the charity Pets As Therapy (PAT) to help spread the joy to those who can’t or don’t have a pet. The team at PAT Dog knows all too well the joy that pets bring to the lives of others. The charity aims to enhance wellbeing in the community through organising therapeutic visits by pets and their owners to hospitals, care homes, schools and other venues.
Every year, HiLife sponsors the PAT Dog of the Year competition, which asks the public to vote for their favourite volunteer PAT dog. Peter Parkinson, marketing director at HiLife said: “PAT dogs visibly lift the mood of every person that comes into contact with them and we have seen this over the years we have worked with the charity. We recognise that people can suffer from the winter blues and wanted to outline how pets can really make a difference. There is no doubt that owning a furry friend brings a great deal of pleasure to many of us".
"We hope that those who are seriously considering giving a pet a good home during these dull winter days will be pleased to hear about the positive effect that pet ownership can have on their lives and how to brighten up days like Blue Monday!”