The holidays are a frenzied time when what little patience you had for an annoying person or task is chucked out the window with the fruitcake you got from Uncle Ted. That’s why it might be best to avoid all human beings and stick with your pet because a volume of research says pets can do wonders for our mental health.
In a Johns Hopkins Depression & Anxiety Bulletin, Karen Swartz, M.D. mentions a recent study where nursing home residents in St. Louis felt less lonely with some quiet time with a dog alone than a visit with both a dog and other residents.
The study enrolled 37 nursing home residents who scored high on a loneliness scale and who were interested in receiving weekly half-hour visits from dogs. Half of the residents had quiet time alone with the pooches. The other half shared the dog with other nursing home residents. Both groups said they felt less lonely after the visit, but the decrease in loneliness was much more significant among the residents that had the dogs all to themselves. They weighed their options: dog or human? They took dog.
Other research shows that pet owners have significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate both before and while performing stressful mental tasks — like, say, planning a holiday dinner for a family whose tree looks more like a bush given all the divorces over the years. Finally, persons recovering from heart attacks recover more quickly and survive longer when there is a pet at home. They don’t even have to be licking you face.
Originally published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.