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Can pets make you happier?

Michelle Bridges with her adopted pet dog

Animal lovers have always known this, but research confirms it – owning a pet could actually make you happier.

The unconditional love and companionship pets give you can make a big difference in calming you down and boosting your mood. There’s nothing quite like a wagging tail greeting you when you get home, a quiet cuddle on the couch after a long day, or a trip to the park for playtime to give you a rush of good feelings.

Not only that, your furry friends can also help you with your healthy lifestyle habits, keeping you active, mindful and in a daily routine.

Pets and oxytocin: the bonding hormone

Research suggests that spending time with pets may boost your levels of oxytocin – the chemical in your brain that helps you to feel bonded with others, like when you fall in love – and your pet’s oxytocin as well.

One recent study, conducted last year by Japanese scientists, looked at the oxytocin levels in humans and their pets after they’d spent time playing together. After half an hour of playtime, both human and animal experienced an oxytocin boost. Dogs had higher levels than cats, and humans who made the most eye contact with their pets experienced the biggest boost or oxytocin, some up to 60%.

How pets can help you stay active and healthy: Michelle Bridges

The benefits of spending time with pets is something Michelle Bridges – Medibank Ambassador, animal advocate and owner of border collie Paddy – knows well.

We had a chat with Michelle about some other ways Paddy helps her daily wellbeing.

1. Encouraging routine.

Even if I’m angling for a Saturday morning lie-in, I can always rely on Paddy to bound into the room and get me moving! And from my experience, Paddy tends to get up and at ‘em around the same time each day – he’s a great alarm clock and makes sure I keep a consistent sleeping routine, which is known to be beneficial for maintaining mental wellbeing.

2. Keeping you active

Having a pet dog ensures you always get a bit of exercise in every day – even if it’s just a quick walk or play in the park. And we all know that exercise is proven to offer various mental health benefits, releasing feel-good chemicals like endorphins and serotonin.

3. Giving you unwavering love and companionship

Everyone feels down from time to time, and that’s normal! But knowing that your furry friend will be waiting for you when you get home always helps. Pets are also known to reduce stress and feelings of social isolation in people – so their love and companionship really is worth its weight in gold.

If you’re considering getting a pet for your family, save a life and adopt a rescue – and get three months of free Medibank Pet Insurance. For more information, visit medibank.com.au/lovemyrescue.

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