Whether helping you get into a routine or providing a listening ear, pets can be a great source of companionship and comfort to their pet parents. But did you know they can also help improve or maintain good mental health? In fact, research shows interactions with animals, especially one's own dog, can increase oxytocin levels in humans.1 Oxytocin helps regulate stress and anxiety in the body Рso higher levels of oxytocin can mean lower levels of stress.

Here are the top five ways our furry friends are helping make our lives better.

Help Keep Stress in Check.

Petting or grooming your pet can not only be comforting for them, but for you as well. Interacting with pets, whether your own or another person's, can significantly decrease cortisol levels,2 the body's main stress hormone, helping control blood pressure, sleep cycle and more. Spending time with a furry friend is a great way to help keep stress levels low.

Keep your Secrets.

Not only do pets provide great companionship, but they can be a listening ear in a time of need. The best part is they keep all your secrets and they'll never judge you during difficult situations! Talking through problems can help you determine your options and pick the best solution to move forward.

Make Great Workout Partners.

Dogs of all sizes require exercise consistently. Luckily, regular exercise increases endorphins, hormones that can help fight depression. Taking your dog for a daily walk or run can also improve general mental health – researchers have found that a consistent routine can help reduce stress levels and lead to better overall health.3

Provide Unconditional Love.

Long days at work or school can be exhausting. But there's nothing better than seeing your pet run to you with enthusiasm and love when you walk through the door. Pets offer unconditional love no matter what hurdles your day brings. That feeling of support can boost any bad mood!

Expand your Social Circle.

Dogs can help with socialization, giving their pet parents an opportunity to talk to new people and begin friendships. Pet parents frequently stop and talk to each other on walks or while playing at a dog park – and face-to-face socialization has been shown to ease symptoms of depression especially for people over 50.4

Our pets do a lot for us – from improving our wellbeing to making us feel safe and loved. You can do the same for them with the security of a HomeAgain® membership.