How Having A Pet Benefits Your Mental Health.
Our pets certainly do make us happy, there’s no better feeling than receiving that unconditional love from them! There are numerous reasons why having a pet is beneficial to your mental health, and we will be exploring both how and why they have such an effect on our mental state.
What types of benefits do pets have on mental health?
Several studies have indicated that pets have various positive impacts on our mental health. When interacting with an animal your oxytocin levels tend to increase, giving you that feeling of love or happiness, which is why people are often so happy around their pets or why children get excited when they get to interact with other animals. Some people may even release their oxytocin levels just by looking at their pets and feeling nothing but adoration for them.
Did you know that pets are incredibly intuitive? Dogs for example, are capable of recognizing our emotions based on the way we speak, our body language and even through smell. Perspiration is a big indicator for them to know when we are feeling stressed. Cats also tend to know when their humans are sad, and sometimes may even approach them for comfort when they sense it’s needed.
There are a few factors of our lives that pets make a positive impact on. But the biggest overall is our mental health. Here are a few ways in which they make an improvement:
Increase in exercise:
Did you know that exercise plays a major role in a healthy mental state? A healthy body, a healthy mind as they say, this also applies to your pets too! Walking your dog daily is not only a good bonding activity but also allows for both of you to get the daily exercise you need. The same can be said for any activity done with a pet, playing with your cat or rabbit, playing fetch or walking your dog, etc. by having a pet, your chances of reaching your daily exercise needs increase greatly.
Helping prevent anxiety:
Studies have proven that by being near or interacting with your pet reduces your anxiety levels, and you’re likely to feel a more calming and relaxed temperament when around them, for example; the sound of a cat purring has been found to be soothing for many people, or having a dog rest their head on you might help you feel calm. Some dogs are even trained to help their owners cope with their anxieties and panic attacks through DPT (Deep Pressure Therapy) Training. DPT involves the trained dog to put their weight on a person, giving off warmth & comfort, and helps that person to relax or calm down.
Pets also help reduce childhood anxiety, a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that out of 643 children, all of which were under the same physical conditions, 21% suffered from anxiety and did not own a pet, whilst only 12% who suffered from anxiety did own pets. Proving the correlation between owning pets and preventing childhood anxiety.
Providing a Routine:
Having structure & stability in our lives is very important for maintaining a healthy mental state. Making sure to dedicate time out of your day to walking the dog, cleaning your cat’s litter box, feeding your pets, etc. can give you a sense of routine, which helps those who cope with anxiety or depression feel as though they’re more in control of their day to day lives. Having a routine for your pets also provides your children with an opportunity to learn more about structure and responsibility.
Providing the feeling of being “needed”:
There are those who struggle with feeling insignificant, and those feelings can lead to a more depressive state of mind. However, a pet does need you. There are many pets who are in need of forever homes, and adopting one may increase your sense of purpose, because to them, you will be your pet’s whole world. They will rely on you to meet their needs and live happily. Responsibilities would include making sure your dog, cat, rabbit, etc. will have enough pet food, having enough cat litter, or cleaning out your hamster or rabbit cages. The end goal is ensuring your pet’s needs are met and carrying out the means towards meeting their needs provides a sense of drive towards maintaining their happiness.
With a pet you’ll never feel truly alone. You might think that you have nobody to talk to, but sometimes pets actually make the best therapists. They don’t judge you and offer you unconditional love and comfort. Venting is always good for relieving tension or negativity, and the best listeners have four legs and a tail. There’s also that feeling of your house or apartment never being empty with a pet around, you feel the positive presence and it automatically makes it feel you’re more like home.
Increases social interactions with others:
Social anxiety can make it difficult to meet new people, and that fear of interaction may overwhelm you. Having a pet provides you with an opportunity to meet new people with a common interest in animals. Dog owners may meet each other in parks or during walks, and having their dogs interact gives them the perfect icebreaker. There is also an abundance of forums dedicated to pet ownership as well as facebook groups that focus on pet owners in certain areas, making it a bit easier to find and interact with people online, with their pets being the common denominator. Befriending other pet parents is a gateway to meeting more people in general, within time you’ll start feeling more comfortable around others and also feel more confident in interacting with complete strangers.
What kind of pet is suitable for your lifestyle?
Different people live different lives, and their lifestyles are a reflection of that. When adopting a pet, and trying to decide whether you’d want a cat, a dog, a rabbit, etc. there are a few factors to consider.If your lifestyle allows you to have more free time at home, a dog may be perfect for you! You can give them the attention they deserve, and dedicate time out of your day to ensure their exercise needs are met as well as your own.
The main factor to consider above all, is your financial situation. Before considering adopting a new pet, make sure you have the funds and means to support and care for them. This is the first step. Worrying about finances due to having a pet around will only lead to an increase in stress levels and cause a negative impact on your mental health overall.
There is no better way to feel absolute unconditional love and adoration than through a pet. The positive impact they make on our mental health is no surprise! They’re a wonderful presence in our lives and we are definitely grateful for them!