The companionship of our furry friends may seem best suited for leisure time, but new research found that having one's dog or cat around—or even just in mind—helps people generate more goals, feel more confident about achieving those objectives and handle stress better.

In two related experiments published in the July Journal of Research in Personality, participants were assigned to one of three conditions. Either the subject had a pet nearby, simply thought about a pet or, in the control group, had no pet involvement. In the first experiment, participants were asked to come up with a list of goals and assess their confidence in attaining them. Those who had their pet in the room or on their mind identified more goals and felt more self-confident about them than the control group. In the second experiment, subjects performed a distressing cognitive task while their blood pressure was assessed. Both pet groups had lower blood pressure during the task than the control group. Simply picturing that sweet, slobbery face may be all you need to soothe your mind and boost productivity.