How Pets Can Improve Your Mental Health

Many pet owners are already aware of the instant happiness that comes with sharing their lives with their pets. Although many of us remain oblivious to the positive effects on our physical and mental wellbeing associated with owning a pet, it is only recently that researchers have begun to scientifically investigate the effects of relationships between humans and animals.

Pets, especially dogs and cats help reduce anxiety, and depression, minimize loneliness, encourage physical movement and playfulness, as well as strengthen cardiovascular health due to general increased physical activity. Caring for an animal can encourage children to be more engaged and happy. Older people also tend to get meaningful companionships from pets.  But perhaps the most important thing a pet will bring you is unconditional love to your life and with it, a new level of happiness and wellbeing.

General Pet Related Health Studies:

  • Pet owners are less likely to experience depression than those without pets.
  • Pet owners have reported lower blood pressure during challenging situations than those without pets.
  • Socialising with a dog or cat can raise levels of serotonin and dopamine, known as the “feel-good” hormone.
  • Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (both being indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
  • Heart attack victims reportedly live longer with pets than those without.
  • Pet owners above the age of 65 make 30% fewer doctor appointments than those without pets.

Sources: Plos One, Gsbi Org

Ways Pets Can Improve Your Mental Health

Depression:

Pets are also a prominent source of motivation for people. Dogs are particularly good at encouraging owners to exercise, which can be valuable for individuals battling depression. Depression also may make socialising a difficult task – walking a dog regularly leads to conversations with other dog owners, therefore helping you to stay socially connected and less withdrawn.

One of the most impactful ways a pet can benefit someone struggling with depression is that they present you with a daily purpose, reward, and a sense of achievement – as well as making you feel valuable and needed.

“When you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning and do life, a pet will give you that reason to do so” says Isabella Ray, founder of Delilah Wolf Pack. “Your pet doesn’t inevitably care if you’re feeling unwell, at the end of the day they need to be fed and attended to”.

So no matter your mood, one concerned look from your pet will have you out of bed to feed, exercise, and care for them.

Anxiety:

Animal companionship can provide comfort, help relieve anxiety and build self-confidence for people anxious about getting out into the world. Since pets live the moment they don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow – so they can motivate you to become more mindful and appreciate the happiness of the moment.

There is indeed a reason why therapy dogs are so beneficial: enjoying a few minutes with a pet can decrease anxiety and blood pressure and increase serotonin and dopamine levels – two neurochemicals that play a major role in relaxation and well-being. People performing stress-inducing tasks do better when there’s a dog around and various studies show that dogs relieve tension both in the office and in relationships.

Pets can also have a general relaxing influence on their owner. Just by patting, sitting next to, or playing with a pet, can give owners a chance to unwind and calm their often busy minds.

Exercise (Dog Owners):

Health experts suggest adults need roughly 2 hours and 30 minutes worth of mild exercise per week. Taking a dog for a walk, hike or run are enjoyable and fulfilling ways to fit daily exercise into your schedule.

Studies show that dog owners are way more likely to hit their exercise requirements, not to mention exercising every day is great for your dog as well. Walking your dog will intensify the connection between you, eliminate many behavioural issues and keep you and your pet fit and healthy.

As dogs need frequent walks, this exercise is good for you too. Exercise, such as walking, provides many positives to your mental health and overall wellbeing. In addition to this, you further expand your mindfulness and enjoying the moment.

If you are considering adopting a pet, ReachOut recommends you should think thoroughly about whether you can look after a pet.