Aside from being cute, cuddly, and always happy to see you, pets have real, proven benefits for physical and mental wellbeing. Pets increase happiness, improve heart health, and provide social support to their owners. They can even teach us about unconditional love and kindness. When the world feels like it’s upside down and spinning out of control, it’s nice to be around someone who is blissfully unaware and consistently calm and happy—that’s a pet! Here’s why you should adopt a pet today.

People who own pets are generally happier and more optimistic. Petting an animal releases oxytocin in the brain, which is the hormone connected with love and happiness. According to an article by Psychology Today, the release of oxytocin soothes and relaxes the nervous system as well, reducing overall feelings of anxiety. Cuddling a pet also decreases cortisol levels, lowering stress hormones and the negative impact they have on the body. There are actual positive physical responses in our bodies to owning and loving a pet.

Owning a pet has also been linked with improved heart health. Studies show that pet owners are more active than non-pet owners. Time reports that researchers found pet owners move on average 30 minutes more per day than non-pet owners. Lower blood pressure, increased physical activity, and reduced stress, as reported above, all improve cardiovascular health. Do it for your heart and your health!

Pets also provide important social support to their owners. Having social connections are extremely important to health and well-being. But, if you live alone, maintaining consistent social connections can sometimes be difficult. A pet can help contribute to feelings of connection, belonging, and support. Just try to feel lonely with a dog by your side—it’s impossible!

Pets can even teach us a thing or two about kindness and unconditional love. New research by University of Western Australia found that children who have dogs have stronger social and emotional skills. Kids who reported playing with their pets at least three times a week were “74% more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors, like sharing.” They were also 40% less likely to have problems in peer interactions. Animals can teach us a lot about life, and it seems they are already teaching the youngest learners about kindness, friendship, and reciprocity.

If you’re hesitating because of the cost, don’t! You can adopt a pet for free, helping save an innocent life by giving a home to a stray animal. Visit your local ASPCA or animal shelter to meet amazing animals in need of loving homes. You don’t even have to worry about pricey veterinarian bills anymore either. Pet insurance is affordable, easy to get, and covers most bills. Pets not only provide mental health support for their owners, but they also improve physical health as well. With all the craziness going on in the world, add a little joy, friendship, and improve your health by adopting a pet today!

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