How Pets Can Improve Your Mental Health
We are probably preaching to the choir when we say that having a pet and being around animals can be an instant mood lifter. We are lucky in our office (when we’re in it) that we have regular canine visitors and they never fail to bring smiles to the faces of our staff and inspire some fantastic selfies.
Our canine (and feline) companions not only provide repeated Instagram-able moments but having them in our lives can also benefit our mental health.
- Exercise - we’re not just talking about your daily walk, those are great, but think about throwing sticks and balls, chasing your pup around the garden, even the delightful task of scooping up poo! Without realising it you have done a full body work out – who needs Joe Wicks eh? Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy. Bingo!
- Stress relievers and mood boosters – One study of stockbrokers with high blood pressure, often associated with stress levels, showed a reduction in blood pressure levels after the adoption of a cat or dog. The enjoyable activity of spending time with pets releases serotonin and dopamine, often known as happy hormones, and pets can also be a welcome distraction from stressful situations. Studies have shown pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression.
Also, the never-ending supply of animal memes on the internet is a joy ---->
- Companionship - For those people who live alone (or during this time of lockdown are working from home with only furry colleagues at our feet) pets can ease loneliness. Dogs are tuned into not only our words but also our body language and gestures. I’m sure we can all think of a moment when a gently placed head or paw on the knee has cheered us up. Humans have a basic need for touch and our pets enjoy the attention.
- Socialising - There are dozens of studies out there to show the benefit of human interaction on mental health and pets are a great conversation starter for shy or isolated people. Conversations can be sparked while out for dog walks or over what type of cat food to purchase in the supermarket.
- Benefits to kids– having a pet in the home can help calm hyperactive and aggressive children and teach kids responsibility and compassion. Dogs have been helpful for those living with Autism and can be a good distraction for children (or adults) with anxiety. Studies have found that patients living with Alzheimer’s have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home.
- Unconditional love and social recognition – Just like a baby recognises its mother as significant and important, our pets look at us in the same way. Dogs don’t judge or hold grudges and that unconditional love and their desire for closeness benefits not only our mental health but can also have a positive effect on our pets, particularly for rescue dogs or dogs who didn’t have the best start in life.
- Giving Structure to your day – Sometimes a great boost on a low mood day is to have plans, and with a pet in your life, you have an anchor to focus your day. Pets need fed, watered, and exercised and we get to benefit from this schedule as well. Often people find they sit down to eat and drink when they are feeding their pets and keeping yourself well-nourished helps your mental health.
All these benefits not only help our day-to-day mood but can be a support to those fighting addiction, or those with mental illness. It is however extremely important to seek medical advice or treatment for specific medical needs. The benefits of time spent with animals is not a substitute for professional help.