Why your Pet is Great for Mental Health
5 reasons why pets are great for our mental health
Depression and Anxiety
Playing and stroking a pet can boost serotonin and dopamine levels, which reduces anxiety levels and calms and relaxes us. Having a pet can encourage owners to do more exercise, even just by going for a walk. This boosts serotonin flow, which helps those suffering with depression. Pets can also keep us anchored in the present moment, and give us a sense of value and responsibility. This distracts owners from any anxious or depressing thoughts. Coming home to a pet that’s happy to see you, whether it’s a dog wagging their tail or a cat purring against your leg, can truly put a smile on anyone’s face.
Loneliness and Socialising
Having a pet creates social opportunities for you and those around you, both inside and outside the house. For example, when walking your dog, you’re likely to meet other dog owners walking their dog(s). While dogs are a common talking point to start with, you can easily engage in a 15-20 minute conversation with them, from sharing dog-caring tips to embarrassing stories. This could also be a chance to arrange a playdate for your dog too! Not only is having a pet a conversation starter for many people, but meeting other animals will benefit your pet too, lowering the risk of any social or aggression problems. Even at home when watching TV or lounging around, pets offer a great source of companionship – you’re never truly alone with a pet laid on your lap or by your side.
A pet can help owners create a routine to stick to and build habits to boost physical and mental health. Dog owners will need to take their dogs out for regular walks and runs, which is a huge motivator to get your daily exercise in. As well as walking your dog, riding a horse or spending some time in the garden with your rabbit is getting you outside at the very least, allowing you to enjoy some time with nature – many studies have shown the mental benefits of being outdoors. Pets also need to be fed on a regular schedule. Dogs and cats tend to eat early in the morning after they wake up, so this is a good motivator to get out of bed and start the day off right!
Interacting with a friendly animal reduces the stress hormone in humans called cortisol. It also increases the release of oxytocin, which is a chemical in the body that naturally reduces stress. The physical act of stroking a pet can also help to lower blood pressure, which in turn lowers stress levels too. Petting or snuggling a furry friend is a great way to instantly feel calmer and forget about any troubles that may be on your mind.
Owning a pet is a huge responsibility to take on, almost like having a child! But alongside this responsibility comes its benefits – having a pet can make us feel needed, creating a sense of purpose for our lives. By owning a pet, you play an important role in their life. Pets depend on you to feed and care for them, which can help to keep your mind distracted with something productive. For those seeking any meaning in life, the act of care-taking comes with a wealth of mental health benefits. An animal under your care needs you, which not only can make you feel useful, but also means you’ll be less focused on your struggles. Caring for a pet will help to boost your morale, offer companionship and a sense of self-worth.