Feeling blue? Instead of sitting down with a tub of ice cream, cuddle up with a dog or cat instead — research shows the unconditional love offered by our furry friends can brighten our moods and reduce tension.

“With a pet, you can just feel,” says Teri Wright, PhD, a psychologist in Santa Ana, CA. “You don’t have to worry about hurting your pet’s feelings or getting advice you don’t want.”

Also, the routine and responsibility of taking care of a pet can give you a sense of purpose and remind you that you’re capable of more than you might think.

And if you have a dog, the exercise you get walking him — not to mention the social interaction with other dog-owners — could lift your spirits even more. Numerous studies have also shown simply petting a dog or cat can lower heart rates and blood pressure.

But even if you can’t get a Fluffy or Fido, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the benefits associated with pet-ownership. Caring for something as small as a fish or turtle can also improve your mood, and studies have shown that watching fish is good for stress levels as well.

[WebMD]