By Annelie Becher
Playing with your pet is good for you.
First and foremost it gives you lots of fun and increases your happiness. Playing with the animal you love will encourage your body to produce serotonin as well as other happiness hormones while also reducing the levels of so called “stress hormones” like adrenaline and cortisol.
Those hormones keep your body on alert as long as lots of them are circulating in your system, making you feel nervous and tense.
Being under stress means that your sympathetic nervous system runs the show, causing increased heart rate as well as tension in your muscles while at the same time compromising the function of your immune system.
When you start playing with your pet your body begins to feel more relaxed and at ease, which is due to the fact that your parasympathetic nervous system starts to become more active.
When this part of your autonomous nervous system is active it enhances the function of your immune system as well as muscle relaxation and overall health.
When you play with your pet you relax because it is impossible to have fun and worry at the same time. You just leave all your troubles behind.
Your pet makes you laugh by doing all sorts of silly things, encouraging you to do silly things as well. Chasing after a dog, trying to catch him and take over that sock or playing tug-of-war over a piece of rope makes you exercise your muscles while enjoying yourself.
Teaching your cat some new tricks makes you concentrate on solutions and gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Touching the soft fur of your pet gives your pleasure while at the same time encouraging you body to produce more feel good hormones.
If you play with your pet on a regular basis you will notice your overall wellness increase and your stress levels decrease.
Of course this does not mean that you may carry on with a lifestyle that is bad for you because at some point your system will not be able to rejuvenate enough just by playing with your pet. If you are already in that stage you will not even be interested in playing with him anymore!
People who own pets report being happier, more relaxed and less stress driven than those who do not share their lives with an animal. This is partly due to the benefits of play and enjoyment but also due to the love and devotion a pet offers.
Being responsible for an animal, feeling needed and appreciated seems to be good for the soul – and things that are good for the soul cannot be bad for the body!
Annelie Becher is a registered psychologist, trainer and author who specializes in helping dogs and their owners get along better.