Border collie chasing ball
1 / 20

Forget Multitasking

When dogs have a job to do, they give it their undivided attention. It turns out people should probably do the same. Stanford researchers found that attention and memory suffer in those who juggle work, email, and web-surfing, compared to those who focus on one task at a time. Other studies suggest employees actually lose time when multitasking.

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Cat napping on couch
2 / 20

Take Naps

You won't catch your pet going from dawn to dusk without any shut-eye. There's good evidence humans can benefit from catnaps, too. A study involving about 24,000 people indicates regular nappers are 37% less likely to die from heart disease than people who nap only occasionally. Short naps can also enhance alertness and job performance.

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Taking the dog for a walk
3 / 20

Walk Every Day

Whether you've got four legs or two, walking is one of the safest, easiest ways to burn calories and boost heart health. Taking regular walks can also help you:

  • Fight depression
  • Lose weight
  • Lower your risk for type 2 diabetes
  • Lower the risk of breast and colon cancer
  • Keep your bones strong
  • Keep your mind sharp

 

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Cat rubbing face on dog
4 / 20

Cultivate Friendships

People are social animals, and friendships have measurable health benefits. Researchers in Australia followed 1,500 older people for 10 years. Those with the most friends were 22% likely to live longer than those with the fewest friends.  

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Happy dog on a walk
5 / 20

Live in the Moment

Living in the moment may be one of the most important lessons we can learn from our pets. In a study called "A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind," Harvard psychologists conclude that people are happiest when doing activities that keep the mind focused, such as sex or exercise. Planning, reminiscing, or thinking about anything other than the current activity can undermine happiness.

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Two cats looking out the window
6 / 20

Don't Hold a Grudge

Part of living in the moment is letting bygones be bygones. Let go of old grudges, and you'll literally breathe easier. Chronic anger has been linked to a decline in lung function, while forgiveness contributes to lower blood pressure and reduced anxiety. People who forgive also tend to have higher self-esteem.

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Dog on beach wagging tail
7 / 20

Wag

OK, so maybe you don't have a tail. But you can smile or put a spring in your step when you're feeling grateful. Researchers have found a strong connection between gratitude and general well-being. In one study, people who kept gratitude journals had better attitudes, exercised more, and had fewer physical complaints.

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Cat playing with insect
8 / 20

Maintain Curiosity

According to a popular saying, curiosity may be hazardous to a cat's health. But not so for humans. Researchers have found that people who are more curious tend to have a greater sense of meaning in life. Other studies have linked curiosity to psychological well-being and the expansion of knowledge and skills.

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Dog playing with ball
9 / 20

Be Silly

Indulging in a little silliness may have serious health benefits. Cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center found a stronger sense of humor in people with healthy hearts than in those who had suffered a heart attack. They conclude that "laughter is the best medicine" – especially when it comes to protecting your heart.

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Cat getting petted
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Get a Back Rub

The power of touch is nothing to sniff at. The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has found massage therapy can ease pain, give the immune system a boost, and help manage chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes. The touch of a loved one may be even more powerful. In one study, married women experienced less anxiety over the threat of an electric shock when they held their husbands' hands.

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Black lab drinking from hose
11 / 20

Drink Water When You're Thirsty

Dogs don't lap up sports drinks when they've been playing hard – and most people don't need to, either. During a typical workout, drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated. Water gives your muscles and tissues critical fluid without adding to your calorie count. Be sure to drink more than usual on hot days or when you're sweating a lot.

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Cat staring at goldfish in bowl
12 / 20

Eat Fish

Most cats would trade kibble for a can of tuna any day. Luckily, you can choose to make fish a regular part of your diet. Salmon, tuna, trout, and other fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and arthritis. In addition, Rush University researchers found that people who eat fish at least once a week are 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

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Beagle licking babys hand
13 / 20

If You Love Someone, Show It

Dogs don't play hard to get – when they love you, they show you. It's a good approach for people seeking to strengthen their relationships. A study published in the journal Personal Relationships suggests small, thoughtful gestures can have a big impact on how connected and satisfied couples feel.

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Two kittens playing
14 / 20

Play

Goofing off is not just for kids and kittens. In his book, Play, Stuart Brown, MD, writes that playing is a basic human need along with sleeping and eating. Play enhances intelligence, creativity, problem-solving, and social skills. So take a cue from your pet and devote yourself to an activity that has no purpose other than sheer fun.

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Dog fixated on something  outside
15 / 20

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

A hike in the woods may be a dog's idea of bliss, but it has plenty of benefits for the human mind and body, as well. Spending time outdoors can enhance fitness, increase vitamin D levels, and reduce stress. In children, playing in natural settings has also been linked to better distance vision, fewer ADHD symptoms, and better performance in school.

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Cat grooming itself
16 / 20

Make Time to Groom

Aside from the obvious health benefits of bathing and brushing your teeth, grooming can have a number of positive effects on your life. Good personal hygiene is vital to self-esteem. A tidy appearance can also help you get and maintain a job.

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Little dog and big dog
17 / 20

Be Aware of Body Language

Dogs are excellent at reading each other's intent from body language. Humans, not so much. While most of us do reveal our emotions through posture, speech patterns, and eye contact, other people generally aren't very good at reading those cues. People get better at decoding body language as they get older.

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Kitten stretching
18 / 20

Stretch Often

Stretching will keep you limber, but the benefits don't stop there. In a 10-week study, volunteers who did no exercise other than stretching experienced surprising physical changes. Besides improving flexibility, they increased their muscle strength, power, and endurance. Although the study was a small one, the results suggest stretching may be a good alternative for people who have a condition that rules out traditional strength-training.

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Great dane on bench
19 / 20

Seek Out Shade

When you're at the park, and your pooch is ready for a break, she'll probably find a nice shady spot to relax. Dermatologists recommend you follow suit, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That’s when you would soak up the most UV rays, particularly during late spring and early summer. While you're sheltered in the shade, it's a good idea to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen on exposed skin.

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Woman and dog by lake
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Stick to a Schedule

Pets like the consistency of a routine – they can’t tell a Saturday from a Monday. The same goes for the human body clock. People sleep better if they go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Sticking to a consistent schedule for bathing, dressing, and eating can also improve the quality of sleep.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 02/02/2016 Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on February 02, 2016

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

(1)    Nick Ridley/OSF
(2)    Roberta Mislevy/Flickr
(3)    Jay P. Morgan/Brand X
(4)    Lorenzo Montezemolo/Flickr
(5)    Hajo Hajo/F1 Online
(6)    Dominik Eckelt/Photographer’s Choice
(7)    Greg Betz/Stone
(8)    Brooke Pennington/Flickr
(9)    Studio Paggy
(10)    Michael Weber/Imagebroker.net
(11)    Crissy Kight/Flickr
(12)    Photodisc/White
(13)    Brian Ivins
(14)    Martin Rugner/Age Fotostock
(15)    Jay S Simon/Stone
(16)    Michael Keller/Flirt
(17)    Ricky John Molloy/Stone
(18)    Sami Sarkis/Photographer’s Choice
(19)    Sharon Vos-Arnold/Flickr
(20)    Jose Azel/Aurora

REFERENCES:

Stanford University.
NPR.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.
Archives of Internal Medicine.
National Sleep Foundation.
AARP.
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Journal of Clinical Oncology.
New England Journal of Medicine.
JAMA.
American Journal Of Preventive Medicine.
Curr Sports Med.
Science.
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Case Center for Collegiate Behavioral Health.
Motivation and Emotion.
University of Maryland Health Center.
Touch Research Institute.
Psychological Science.
KidsHealth.org.
American Heart Association.
Washington State Department of Health.
Rush University Medical Center.
Personal Relationships.
Brown, Stuart. Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. New York: Penguin, 2009.
National Wildlife Federation.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
University of Illinois Extension.
Harvard Business School Working Knowledge.
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
CDC: "Skin Cancer Prevention."
American Psychological Association.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on February 02, 2016

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE VETERINARY ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your pet’s health. Never ignore professional veterinary advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think your pet may have a veterinary emergency, immediately call your veterinarian.