Petting your dog could lower your stress levels

Feeling overwhelmed? A little time spent petting your pooch could help calm your nerves.

Stress is a stranger to few (if any) of us, especially these days. Still, while plenty of us know what it feels like to struggle with stress, fewer of us are great at dealing with stress when it strikes. Try as we might to chill out by exercising, curling up with a book, meditating, etc., it's not always easy to take our stress down a few notches. Now, while our pups might find their own version of stress relief in the form of Finn's Calming Aid soft chews, studies show that we humans might find our perfect stress relief in the form of our dogs.

This might not come as a total surprise — just a few minutes with your pup might be enough to soothe your soul — but according to research, some of the biggest payoffs actually come from petting your pooch. One study from Washington State University looked at the effect that animal interaction could have on stress levels by observing a group of (very stressed, no doubt) college students. The study broke students apart into different groups, some of whom were given the chance to pet and play with cats and dogs, while others only got to look at pictures of the animals or didn't get any form of visual or physical pet stimuli (quel dommage).

The result? Students who got to interact with cats and dogs — even for as little as ten minutes — exhibited significantly lower cortisol levels than students who didn't have the chance to pet one of the animals. From this researchers determined that, indeed, petting a cat or dog could be a really effective way to manage stress on a physiological and an emotional level.

Lucky for us, this means that we can henceforth call curling up with our dog an effective and essential "tool" for stress management. (Read: we're doing it because we have to. You know, for the good of our minds and overall health.)

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