Nowadays, there is a much bigger focus on mental health than ever before. This is because our psychological and emotional wellbeing are intrinsically linked to our overall health and wellness.
Indeed, there has been much research into how pets benefit mental health. Numerous studies have shown that pets can effectively relieve stress, reduce anxiety and make us generally happier.
How exactly do pets benefit mental health?
Firstly, pets provide wonderful companionship. They are loving and attentive. They appear to miss us when we are not there and, as such, they seem overjoyed when we return home. This leaves us feeling loved and needed, which is great for self-confidence and self-love.
However, aside from being our best friends, pets benefit mental health is a whole array of other ways. Here are six ways in which pets are good for mental health.
1. Pets are marvelous motivators
Caring for your four-legged pal gives you a sense of purpose. As such, pets can be fantastic motivators. You might feel like sitting on the sofa watching re-runs of your favourite TV show but Fido’s longing eyes are telling you something different! That’s right, it’s time to get out of the house and go for a nice long beach walk.
Whether it’s going to the local shops to pick up pet food or grab essential pet supplies, dogs and cats prompt us to get out and about. For some people, this is a huge way in which pets benefit mental health. Without their barking buddy or purring pal, they would barely leave their home.
2. Pets help reduce depression & anxiety
A study conducted in 2011 with Cats Protection in the UK found that owning a feline friend has a positive impact on mental wellness. The study involved 600 cat and non-cat-owning participants, half of which described themselves as having a mental health problem.
The results revealed that 87% of cat owners felt their purring pal had a positive impact on their wellbeing. Additionally, 76% reported they could cope with everyday life much better due to the company of their cat.
3. Pets lower stress levels
Lots of research has shown pets benefit mental health by reducing stress. Cuddling and petting a cat or dog can help lower blood pressure and alleviate stress. Even watching a fish swim or lizard breathing can help a person to relax by encouraging mindfulness.
Furthermore, feelings of loneliness and social isolation can lead to stress. Thus, because owning a pet can keep you socially connected and encourage you to get out and meet people, it can help prevent stress too!
4. Pets help us to meet people
There’s no denying pets benefit mental health by encouraging socialization. Meeting new people, having conversations, sharing ideas and learning new things is part of life. It brings positivity and feelings of connectedness — both of which are good for mental wellbeing.
Owning a dog gives you something in common with other dog owners. What’s more, a dog is a great conversation starter. Whether it’s asking what breed the dog is, how old it is, or commenting on something funny that the dog is doing, these are great icebreakers. These sorts of casual conversations help pet owners to stay socially connected. Studies show that people who have frequent social interactions and more friendships tend to be mentally happier.
5. Pets help keep you fit
Many studies show that dog owners are fitter, healthier and happier than people without dogs.
Why? Well, because people with dogs tend to walk more. Indeed, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Liverpool, in the UK, found that people with pooches walk longer and more frequently than non-dog owners.
What’s more, dog owners generally walk their fur pal on top of their regular weekly exercise. This means that they are much more physically active than people without dogs.
By helping their owners reach or exceed the recommended weekly target for physical activity, pets benefit mental health and physical wellbeing.
6. Pets can be beneficial for children with ADHD
In fact, pets benefit kids with attention disorders in multiple ways. Firstly, the pet teaches the child about responsibility. By walking, feeding and bathing the pet the child learns the importance of caring and planning ahead.
Secondly, owning a pet can help the child to get rid of pent up energy. After all, pets love to play. Whether it’s throwing the ball for their dog or chasing their cat around the house, it’s likely to leave the child feeling much calmer come to the end of the day.
Thirdly, pets provide unconditional love. A pet will listen to a child tell them about his or her day. It won’t answer back. It won’t interrupt, nor will it criticize and this often means the world to a child with attention disorder (or any child, for that matter!).
So, if you are currently thinking about getting a dog these are certainly some pros to consider. Next, you just need to decide what breed is best for you and your family!
How does your pet benefit your mental health?