Why a wet nose is good for you
Every morning, my dog jumps on the bed and wakes me up by snuggling as close as she can to my head and puts her wet nose into my hair. Even though I might grump and groan about her waking me, the resulting rush of endorphins and oxytocin gets me out of bed feeling ready and energised to start the day.
These pleasure parts of our brain cause a natural rush of hormones that make us feel connected and bonded. Research shows that pet owners are 40 per cent more likely to feel happier about themselves, more successful and less isolated or lonely (Independent, 2018). Best of all, pet ownership and connection adds to a greater sense of overall wellbeing and contentment.
The same rush from these ‘feel-good’ chemicals also happens when we drink or take drugs. But the rush disappears quickly, and we are left feeling sorry for ourselves, depleted and unable to get on with the day.
Bonding with a pet can motivate us to be a better version of ourselves. We feel responsible for our pet and therefore, useful and needed. Our pets need and love us, which makes us feel loved, more connected and potentially less likely to turn to alcohol or drugs for comfort.
Animals are great stress relievers, and people who are pet owners are less likely to suffer long-term health problems. It is unclear whether this is due to getting up and going for a walk with Rover or whether the actual endorphins as a result of pet ownership lead to a greater sense of health, wellbeing and longevity. The psychological and emotional benefits of owning a pet are well known and even stroking a pet can lessen high blood pressure and lead to better coping mechanisms (NIH, 2020).
We all suffer stress and sometimes turn to less healthy options to cope, but turning to a pet who loves you unconditionally is priceless. Really, there is nothing quite so heart-warming than Rover greeting you every morning with his wet nose and toothy smile.