Why the secret to your success could be owning a pet

Few things compare to the joy of coming home to a furry companion. But just in case you need another reason to snuggle your pet, here’s one: Animals provide mental and health benefits that can serve you well in your professional life.

Employers like Google and Amazon have already caught on to this fact, and many workplaces are now pet-friendly. A number of billionaire tech titans are proud pet owners, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Here are three science-backed ways owning a pet can contribute to your success:

1. They reduce stress 

Science indicates that pets can help lower stress levels and feelings of anxiety. In a study, participants were exposed to a stressful situation and tasked with stroking a rabbit, turtle or toy versions of said animals. The toys had no effect on relieving their stress but petting the actual animals did — even for those participants who initially said they don’t like animals.

In another study, dogs were found to reduce pre-exam stress levels in college students, and the American Heart Association released an official statement in 2013 noting that pet ownership diminishes stress.

While many working adults are used to living in a constant state of stress, workplace and happiness researchers Annie McKee and Emma Seppälä say that it can take a heavy mental and emotional toll on you, eventually crippling your success.

2. They boost your mood

Pets can help deter feelings of sadness or mild depression because theykeep loneliness at bay. Studies also show that playing with pets can promote a positive mood and causes your brain to release feel good neurotransmitters like oxytocin, which creates a sense of calmness, andserotonin, which regulates your mood.

And a positive outlook on life is actually essential to success, according to Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. The billionaire says that he was able to build the multinational corporation because he didn’t focus on the negative aspects of other airlines and what they were doing wrong.

“Positive thinking is [an] incredibly powerful tool,” says Branson. “Simply put: positive, proactive behavior spurs positive, proactive behavior.”

3. They help you socialize

Not only do pets offer companionship, but they can help foster human interactions as well. A study found that pet owners were 60 percent more likely than non–pet owners to get to know new people, while dog owners in particular were much more likely to have befriended or received social support from someone they met in a pet-related situation.

Science shows that having close friendships can help you boost your resilience and bounce back from hardships — a necessary skill if you want to be successful.

Look no further than billionaire besties Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to understand the crucial role friends play in your professional life. For the last 25 years, they’ve bounced business ideas off one other and advised each other on their respective areas of expertise.

“Some friends do bring out the best in you,” Gates says at a Columbia University panel with Buffett, “and so it’s good to invest in those friendships.”

Here’s what R10,000 will actually be worth in 10 years

8 Habits That Will Upgrade Your Life