And fortunately, these purring, tail-wagging creatures have much they can teach us about overcoming work-related stress — so you can boost your mental health and take joy in the work you do and care you provide.
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- Forgive quickly
- Set boundaries
- Stay active
- Stretch regularly
- Connect with loved ones
1. Forgive quickly
Most pets forgive quickly.
Have you ever seen two dogs fight over a toy, only to play together in a flurry of wagging tails mere minutes — or even seconds — later? If so, you’re not alone.
One study of 177 dogs over 72 one-hour periods showed that dogs, when getting into an “argument” of some kind, make up almost immediately.
And research suggests adopting a similar approach to forgiveness can do wonders for your mental health.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “forgiveness is linked to mental health outcomes such as reduced anxiety, depression, and other major psychiatric disorders, as well as with fewer physical health symptoms and lower mortality rates.”
2. Set boundaries
Pets are also great at setting boundaries.
If you’ve ever tried to give a cat a belly rub at the wrong time, you know exactly how clearly they communicate when you’ve crossed a line.
Setting your own boundaries can be incredibly helpful for your mental state (though we recommend using your words to communicate your boundaries, rather than scratching).
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA ), boundaries can help people feel more secure and mentally safe, while creating an “environment for each person to be themselves and have their needs met.”
3. Stay active
Pets take their physical activity seriously.
It’s rare to find a dog who won’t enthusiastically remind their human when it’s time for their daily walk. (And if you happen to inadvertently touch their leash in their presence, watch out.)
According to WebMD, taking daily walks of your own can:
- Improve your mood through increased blood flow and circulation to the brain and body.
- Positively affect your central nervous response system.
- And calm your nerves, making you feel less stressed.
Bottom line: Get those steps in!
4. Stretch regularly
Pets also make sure to take time out of their day to stretch.
No one is better at physical contortion than a cat, and dogs even have a yoga pose named after them (downward dog!).
According to Colorado State University, a stretching routine is good for your mind and body.
“Stretching has been shown to increase serotonin levels — i.e., the hormone that helps stabilize our mood, reduce stress, and overall makes us feel good — which causes a decrease in depression and anxiety,” they explained.
5. Connect with loved ones
Finally, pets know the value of spending time with those they love.
Some dogs love being with their human so much they follow them around from room to room throughout the day.
Purdue University suggests spending more time with the people you love can improve your psychological well-being.
“Spending more time with loved ones can help decrease feelings of loneliness or isolation and reduce depressive symptoms, anxiety and stress,” they explained. “Likewise, feeling happier in their relationships is associated with improved biological function like lower inflammation, lower stress hormones and better cardiovascular health.”