It’s no secret that owning a pet can help lift your spirits and keep you active. But taking care of a furry friend has many other benefits that could help improve your quality of life and help you discover a sense of purpose. We often experience empty nest syndrome after our adult children leave home, or when we retire and lose the daily stimulation of going to work every day. Owning and caring for a pet may help you find a sense of self after children have left for college or parents have passed away. Having a pet as a companion can ease pain, create more social interaction, boost your health, and may be a good distraction from everyday worry and anxiety.

1) Create Social Interaction

Owning a cat or dog can help you get out and about, which could lead to meeting new people and forming new friendships. According to the popular television network Animal Planet, “One of the fringe benefits of taking on the responsibility of pet ownership is that animals can be an instant icebreaker.” Try taking your pet to a training class or spending time at the dog park to meet new people!

2) Ease Pain

Woman’s Day magazine states that caring for a pet can help decrease anxiety, which may help to decrease pain. In addition, a study out of Loyola University found that people who use pet therapy when recovering from surgery could need less pain medicine than people who do not.

3) Boost Heart Health

Having a pet, especially a dog, can help you become more active in your daily routine, through regular walks and play time. Per a study from the American Heart Association, the increased physical activity from walking your dog could lower your risk of obesity, lower your blood pressure, lessen your stress, and lower your cholesterol levels, which could have a positive impact on your heart.

4) Stay Present

The Chopra Center suggests that the next time you are taking your dog for a walk or sitting with your cat to remember to pause, look around, and take in the beauty of that moment. Human nature is to think ahead and create extra stress, so you might notice that taking a few minutes to be present could create an ongoing sense of calm.

If you don’t have the means to own a pet or the time to take care of one, you can always volunteer some of your time. Taking a few hours out of your week to volunteer at an animal shelter or veterinary office could have some of the same health-boosting benefits as owning a pet while teaching you to care for someone else.

How do you think owning a pet can enhance your quality of life?