To reduce stress, pet a goat

To reduce stress, pet a goat

Have you ever been so stressed you could just, maybe, hug a dog?

If you’re a student on campus at certain universities during finals week, you might be able to do just that.

Some universities have found creative ways to help students deal with their stress: They bring certified therapy dogs on campus. Students can swing by to pet, snuggle, brush or just sit next to the animals.

Lots of research underscores the tactic. Some scientists think the so-called love hormone oxytocin is behind all of these benefits. Researchers say being around a pet could release the oxytocin in brains of harried individuals, reducing their stress and anxiety. This finding was recently reported in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

When stress and anxiety are dampened, a whole host of health issues could be affected. This means that petting a pooch when you’re stressed could boost you interpersonal interactions and mood, lower your heart rate, blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. There may even be some health benefits to the immune system.

Of course, therapy animals provide help to more people than just stressed students during finals week. You can find therapy animals in places such as nursing homes and hospitals. Two universities, Harvard Medical School and Yale Law School, have therapy dogs on campus on designated days during the week.

And while dogs may be the first animal that comes to mind, they’re not the only ones that can snuggle up for stress-releasing cuddles. Therapy animals can include cats, rats, guinea pigs, horses, goats and ferrets.

Fingers crossed that researchers will next focus on the stress-relieving qualities of watching cat videos during the workday.

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