Could Getting a Pet Make You Less of an Introvert?
As introverts, we often find ourselves battling with feeling misunderstood and fitting into the social scene. Some of us would say that we shouldn’t feel bad for it, but there are others who struggle to figure out how to get along in our wild modern world. Regardless of where you’re at though, it seems reasonable to say that we could all benefit from being healthier, happier, and more sociable. And this may all be possible with a trip to the nearest pet shelter. Pet owners have been studied for differences in well-being compared to pet-free counterparts, and below are just a few of the many positive tendencies science is seeing among pet owners.
When it comes to health, getting a dog may improve health more than buying a gym membership. In a study by Michigan State University, ⅔ of dog owners made it out for walks lasting at least 10 minutes. Even more impressive, nearly half of the dog owners studies were exercising 30 minutes a day at least five days a week. Other studies show that pet owners generally have better cardiovascular health because of lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Part of that is obviously thanks to regular walking, but the role pets play in decreasing stress certainly ties into blood pressure. One study shows a connection between pet ownership and recovery from major surgery.
Petting a pooch can lift our spirits. In fact, one study shows that simply being around a dog has us feeling better by eye-gazing alone. The connection we get from this contact kicks up our production of hormones like oxytocin and endorphins, and the neurotransmitter dopamine — things that all play a big role in the brain with how good we feel. But push science aside, and you’ll see the many reasons pets improve our well-being. They offer us a source of unconditional love that’s free of any criticism, and they’re always happy to see us. And some animals are so attuned to our emotions that they’re being trained as therapy animals. Dogs are soothing PTSD veterans, while horses are improving the symptoms of cerebral palsy and autism, and cats are offering quality of life to cancer and dementia patients.
They’re More Social
A study by Miami University showed that people with pets were more sociable and conscientious. It may be that people who get pets tend to socialize more in the first place, but having a dog offers a friendly and natural means of connection. Conversations are easily struck by fellow walkers or dog admirers as they have common ground which they can converse from. Even though conversations may not come naturally, the mood boost we get from being with our pets can completely shift the way we’re feeling when we find ourselves talking with someone. The impact pets can have on our self-esteem with their critique-free bond surely plays into our social behavior too.
They Have Higher Self-Esteem
Various studies have found pet owners to be happier and more grounded compared to non-pet owners. Significant human-pet bonds also show a connection to greater self-esteem. Could it be due to having an animal that accepts us as we are, or is it just that more outgoing people are more likely to get themselves a pet? There’s no doubt that confident people are more apt to get out and make life-changing decisions, but bringing an animal into our lives will provoke changes regardless of personality type.
So, can getting a pet help you deal with being an introvert? Science has yet to show that a cat or dog can be directly responsible for a change in personality, but having a furry buddy is tied to a plethora of positive factors. And maybe by having a friend that loves us for all that we are, we’ll be able to accept ourselves — introversion and all — and finally get over the idea of needing to be something that we’re not. If that’s the case, then everyone on planet Earth could probably use a pet. Introverts, extroverts, and all.
Ash Stevens is a writer who doubles as a pretend philosopher and a wannabe shaman. When she isn’t writing her soul out on her blog, she’s listening to the great minds (or great comedians) on YouTube, soaking up sunshine, or having yet another fascinating conversation with herself (she gives excellent advice, you know). Find her on Twitter or Facebook and make a new friend!
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