How pets can improve our mental healthResearch shows that having a pet can ease loneliness and depression, reduce stress, and increase exercise.
If you have a pet, you are probably already aware of some of the beneficial effects that pets have on us. Imagine coming home from a long, exhausting day to find our pet welcoming us with its unwavering love. Just think about this moment and relive the feeling… isn’t it a heavenly feeling? We have to admit that pets are more than just adorable. They are our cuddle buddies with whom we enjoy spending time with. When they are close by, we experience both physical and emotional well-being.
It’s wonderful to see that pets are now a common sight in many homes. Pets are now viewed by many as members of the family. Whether it’s a dog, cat, bird, or other furry friend, pets can offer unconditional love and companionship that can make a real impact on one’s mental health. Having a pet nearby gives a different kind of joy. Going on short walks, playing with them, cuddling with them, or even just talking to them are all enjoyable and indescribably good experiences.
While the majority of pet owners may be aware of the immediate pleasures and advantages of having a pet in their lives, some are still unaware of the health advantages (both physical and psychological) that come with the pleasure of snuggling up to a pet.
Research has started to look into the advantages of the human-animal bond, and their findings are consistent with the idea that having a pet, particularly a dog or cat, can improve our mental health in a variety of ways. For example, having a pet can ease loneliness and depression, reduce stress, and promote playfulness and exercise. It is seen that in most pet-owned homes, all family members bond with their pets, particularly children and the children raised in such households tend to become more secure and active as they grow. Pets also offer valuable companionship for people of all ages.
The positive effects of having a pet around are plenty but let’s explore a few of the ways they help make us feel happier and healthier.
Pets offer companionship and unconditional love. Our innate desire as humans is to love and be loved, and pets simply provide us with the acceptance and love we constantly seek. They are eager to love us and receive our love. The unending love that they give us, helps us to combat stress, loneliness, sadness, and other unpleasant emotions.
Pets also play a significant role in reducing our stress and anxiety levels. Petting a dog or cat, for example, can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase levels of the ‘feel-good’ hormone oxytocin. The fact that pets satisfy our fundamental human need for touch is one of the factors contributing to this therapeutic effect. Cuddling, hugging, or otherwise touching our pets can immediately contribute to a calming and soothing experience when we’re stressed or anxious. As opposed to dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, pets live in the present. Therefore, pets are a wonderful reminder for us to be present in the moment with them.
Research has also shown that pets decrease the risk of depression. This is because pets can tell when you’re unhappy or depressed and will comfort you. They serve as a reminder that it’s okay and you are not alone.
Believe it or not, pets are our mood boosters. They live in their own world, and sometimes act in the silliest and most random ways, and it’s very difficult to contain our laughter when they do so. They also might occasionally cause havoc in and around our homes but as soon as we get a glance into their eyes, we tend to forget everything. It can be that easy for us. They selflessly treat us as their own and they have the innate ability to effortlessly make our lives better.
Pets are also a great support when we are going through a major transition, whether it be an illness, the loss of a loved one, pregnancy, or any other phase of transition, they can really help us with coping, resilience, and recovery. One of the most notable instances occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were all confined to our homes and only permitted to leave for short strolls or grocery runs. Households with pets might have experienced that sense of contentment to have someone to share their challenges with.
Pets are great listeners. They love us no matter what and won’t ever criticize us for anything. When we are going through a hard time, talking to our pets can help us to vent. They provide us with a sense of comfort and security and can help with our self-confidence, especially if we are struggling with low self esteem.
Additionally, pets significantly enhance our quality of life. Taking care of a pet encourages us to make healthy changes. For instance, walking a dog is enjoyable on its own but also meets our daily exercise requirement. And it’s no surprise to us that exercise significantly improves both our physical and mental health.
Pets can also help us establish and maintain new relationships by acting as a great social lubricant. When we take our pets out and about, they frequently attract attention from strangers and cause them to strike up conversations, which can further enhance effective social networking.
Owning a pet comes with a responsibility. It means that you will always have something to do such as feeding them, taking them for a walk etc. This daily routine can give you a sense of stability and make you feel more grounded. It provides meaning to your day. The structure and routine that a pet requires may be especially helpful for people with ADHD.
Pets have the unique ability to offer emotional support, promote physical health, and bring a sense of joy and purpose to our lives, all of which can positively impact our mental health. Who knows, maybe getting a pet can add that extra spark in your life that you are looking for.