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4 Ways Pets Help with Stress: Exploring the Neurological Perspective

4 Ways Pets Help with Stress: Exploring the Neurological Perspective

Kent Yoshimura -

Have you ever wondered why spending time with your furry friend makes you feel instantly better? Why do pets have such a calming effect on our minds? Whether it's a wagging tail or a gentle purr, the presence of pets can significantly alleviate stress and improve our overall well-being because it releases oxytocin, stimulates the brain's reward pathway, decreases cortisol levels, and helps with distraction and mindfulness. In this article, we will delve more into the fascinating world of pet-assisted stress relief, exploring the neurological perspective behind it.


The Benefits of Having a Pet

Having a pet brings numerous benefits to our lives, far beyond companionship. Research has shown that pet ownership can bring multiple benefits, such as lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression, and even improve cardiovascular health. Pets provide us with unconditional love, and their presence alone can create a sense of comfort and security. They offer companionship, which is especially valuable during times of stress or loneliness.

Not only do pets bring joy and companionship, but they also have physical benefits. The act of petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure and release endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. The rhythmic motion and soothing touch of stroking a pet's fur can induce a sense of calm and relaxation, reducing stress levels in the process. In addition, the responsibility of caring for a pet can give us a sense of purpose and routine, promoting a more structured and balanced lifestyle.

Pets Absorb Bad Energy

One intriguing aspect of pets is their ability to absorb negative energy. Just like emotional sponges, they have an uncanny knack for sensing our moods and providing us with emotional support. Whether we're feeling stressed, angry, or upset, pets have a unique way of absorbing those negative emotions, effectively acting as a buffer for our stress. This innate ability not only benefits us but also helps create a more harmonious living environment.

Pets, especially dogs, have been known to exhibit empathetic behaviors towards their owners. They can sense changes in our body language, tone of voice, and even subtle changes in our scent. When we're stressed, they may offer comfort by sitting close to us, licking our hands, or simply providing a calming presence. This empathetic response can help regulate our emotions and promote a sense of well-being.

4 Ways Pets Help with Stress 

From a neurological perspective, pets have a profound impact on our brain chemistry, resulting in stress reduction. Here are four key ways through which pets influence our brains and alleviate stress:

    1. Release of Oxytocin: Interacting with our pets triggers the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the "love hormone." Oxytocin promotes feelings of bonding, trust, and relaxation, helping to counteract the stress response and induce a sense of calm. This hormone plays a crucial role in forming and strengthening the bond between humans and animals, leading to increased feelings of happiness and reduced stress levels.

    2. Activation of the Reward Pathway: Engaging with our pets stimulates the brain's reward pathway, leading to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation. This activation not only enhances our mood but also reduces stress and anxiety. The joy we experience when playing with our pets or witnessing their playful antics can be attributed to the release of dopamine, creating a positive feedback loop that reinforces our bond and diminishes stress.

    3. Decreased Cortisol Levels: Cortisol is a stress hormone that can wreak havoc on our physical and mental well-being. Studies have found that simply being in the presence of our pets can lower cortisol levels, effectively reducing stress and promoting a more balanced state of mind. The soothing presence of our pets acts as a calming influence, helping to regulate our stress response and restore a sense of calmness. Lower cortisol levels contribute to improved immune function, better sleep quality, and overall stress resilience.

    4. Distraction and Mindfulness: Pets provide a welcome distraction from our stressors, redirecting our attention to their needs and behaviors. This shift in focus allows us to practice mindfulness, living in the present moment and temporarily detaching from our worries and anxieties. Whether it's engaging in playtime, taking a leisurely walk with our dog, or simply observing the graceful movements of a fish in an aquarium, these moments of mindfulness provide respite from stress and promote a sense of tranquility.

The Benefits of Pet Therapy

Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, is a specialized form of treatment that harnesses the healing power of animals to improve overall well-being. This therapy involves trained animals, such as dogs or horses, working alongside healthcare professionals to assist individuals with various physical, emotional, or psychological challenges.

The benefits of pet therapy are far-reaching. Interacting with therapy animals has been shown to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and decrease symptoms of depression. The presence of a gentle and empathetic animal can create a calming and soothing environment, facilitating emotional healing and providing comfort during difficult times.



In conclusion, pets offer a multitude of benefits for our well-being, particularly in helping us cope with stress. From absorbing negative energy to releasing hormones that promote relaxation, their presence has a profound impact on our emotional and neurological state. By nurturing our bond with our pets and creating a safe and loving environment for them, we can enhance the positive effects they have on our lives.

It is important to recognize that our pets rely on us for their well-being as well. We must strive to understand their needs, provide them with a routine and structure, and ensure they are free from unnecessary stressors. By taking care of our pets, we not only strengthen our bond but also contribute to their overall happiness and reduce their stress levels.

In the grand tapestry of life, pets hold a special place as our trusted allies in the battle against stress. They teach us the value of companionship, the power of living in the present moment, and the beauty of unconditional love. So, embrace the remarkable ways that pets help with stress and allow them to guide you towards a more peaceful and fulfilling existence. For more articles related to pets, check out 4 Reasons Why It's Time To Get a Pet.



About the Author

Ryan Chen is the CFO and co-founder of Neuro, a gum and mint company that enhances your health and wellness in the most convenient, affordable, and portable way possible.

Despite being injured in a snowboard accident that left him paralyzed at 19, Ryan went on to graduate with degrees in two very different subjects--Economics and Chemistry--and later trained in racing with the US Paralympic team. His strong intellectual background combined with vigorous resilience has earned him recognitions such as Forbes 30 Under 30. 

Find him on LinkedIn here: Ryan Chen


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