Want to Reduce Stress? Hang Out with Animals

black lab

My husband Mike says it whenever I come home feeling tense and tired after an especially tough work day: Just look into Momo’s eyes and you’ll feel better.

Momo is our eight-year-old black lab mix rescue dog, and Mike is absolutely right. When I look into Momo’s deep, soulful, beautiful brown eyes, whatever was making me frazzled just falls away.

Pets have a remarkable capacity, without even trying, to improve the lives of their owners. Along with serving as a soothing distraction from whatever may be troubling us, they enrich our existence in these other wonderful ways:

They improve our health: Studies show that pets lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, and very likely strengthen immunity and extend longevity. Nursing homes are increasingly bringing animals into the lives of their residents because studies also show that when elderly people have pets to care for, they need less medication and are more mobile and connected in the world.

They bring out the kid in us: Momo’s name isn’t actually Momo; it’s Morgan. The nickname just sort of happened one day out of a silly conversation. The point here is that pets spark playfulness in us, in addition to creativity, imagination, and spontaneity--all of which give our serious adult heads the regular breaks they need to perform better at work.

They motivate us: Research indicates that pets boost serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters critical to feeling good. And when we’re feeling good, we’re more likely to act on our goals and get things done. Of course the needs of our pets --food, walks, vet check-ups--also keep us stimulated and moving. It’s my regular runs and hikes with Momo, in fact, that keep me in shape.

All in all, what pets generally do for us is reduce stress so that we can be happier and more resilient--the very essence of personal and professional success. And there’s nothing better than that.


The health and wellness of attorneys has been increasingly in the spotlight. In the past year, The Florida Bar has undertaken new initiatives to focus on ways that attorneys can improve their mental and physical health. As part of this initiative, the Animal Law Section has been providing information and seminar speakers on the value of animals both in the context of therapy animals for specific applications and as companion animals for attorneys wishing to combat stress. In addition to her article on that subject, Dr. Amy Wood was the keynote speaker at our section’s Groundhog Day Program, which is discussed in more detail in a separate post. We recommend Dr. Wood’s presentation entitled “10 Ways Animals Can Reduce Stress and Improve Your Outlook” to learn more ways animals can make life easier and more enjoyable.


Maine-based psychologist Amy Wood is the founder of Floridacleseminars.com, which produces CLE programming designed to assist Florida attorneys in becoming happier and more successful. She is the author of Life Your Way: Refresh Your Approach to Success and Breathe Easier in a Fast-paced World and is often called on for her expert opinion by media ranging from local newspapers to Parade Magazine. Dr. Wood earned her doctorate from Adler University, is certified by the College of Executive Coaching, and has been accepted into the National Speakers Association. To contact her, email amywood@floridacleseminars.com or call (207) 232-0390.

#stress #health #companionanimals #psychology

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