Why Having a Pet is Officially the Best Ever Form of Self-Care

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The benefits to your self-esteem are real.

This post originally appeared on Girlboss.

Having a dog, cat, or even a turtle can bring wide-ranging benefits to pretty much everyone, studies show. #science

You don’t have to be a behavioural scientist to figure out that watching a bunch of puppies do the head tilt is 100 per cent going to make you smile.

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See? Instant smile trigger (and you totally just tilted your head too, didn’t you). But you do need to be a behavioural scientist to understand just how much happiness our furry besties can actually bring us. And as it turns out, it’s quite a lot.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that in addition to previous reports that pets can provide a huge boon to lonely individuals, pets can be a serious mood lifter, even if you’re not experiencing feelings of isolation.

Pets = happiness all around, in other words.

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Three different groups of research found consistent evidence that the relationship you have with your pet can result in greater self-esteem and physical fitness, in addition to making you more conscientious and outgoing.

Interestingly, the studies found these benefits to be more pronounced in individuals who already have strong human relationships, as opposed to introverts or narcissists who may have trouble enjoying time with other humans. Still, benefits were observed amongst pet owners, across the spectrum of personality types.

And get this: one set of results found that pet owners reported their pets gave them just as much emotional support as their family members.

So next time your parents get on your case about finding a “respectable” life partner with a “stable career” so you can “carry on the family name” or whatever, just threaten to replace them with a pair of Golden Retrievers.

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Furthermore, in addition to all the warm and fuzzies a good snuggle session with your cat or dog can bring you, just thinking about your pet can make you happier.

An experiment in the same 2011 study prompted subjects to feel a sense of social rejection; they were then divided into three groups where one group was asked to write about their best friends, one was asked to write about their pets, and one was asked to draw a map.

The map drawers felt worse in the end, while the groups asked to write about their dogs and best friends experienced an equal boost in happiness. Turns out there’s some real science behind that whole trope of dogs being (wo)man’s best friend.

And the good news doesn’t stop there: A study released earlier this month debunked the long-held notion that letting your pet sleep in bed with you is disruptive to your sleep. While their fidgety nature can result in waking you up more times throughout the night than you otherwise would, the overall decline in the quality of sleep was found to be negligible.

All of which is to say: If you’re one of those unbearable pet parents (hey, at least we know we’re the worst), here’s evidence that you don’t need to feel the slightest bit weird about it.

Pets are basically a panacea to the constant chaos of our brains, and they bring all sorts of benefits no matter what kind of headspace you’re in. Keep in mind, of course, that pets are a serious financial, emotional and physical commitment.

If having a pet isn’t in the realm of possibility right now, there’s always the We Rate Dogs Twitter account to tide you over until the day you can bring that furry bundle of joy home and have moments like this:

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Gifs by GIPHY.

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