Studies have shown time and time again that having a pet can greatly benefit your mental health. From childhood to old age, they can be loyal companions that help to bring a lot of joy to your life.
But just why is that? What’s so special about having a pet and why can they act as a lifeline in our time of need?
Could a pet benefit your mental health?
Pets are Fantastic Listeners.
The great thing about pets is that they’re always there for you. They have a way of knowing when you’re feeling down and can also give you a great deal of reassurance. Research has shown that people who own pets confide in them regularly. And I, as a pet owner, couldn’t help but agree. I talk to my girls often, telling them about my day and sometimes talking to them about what’s on my mind.
While dogs are often the go-to, not everyone can commit to walking one every day. Especially if they live a very busy lifestyle. Cats, however, are very independent animals and while they still require frequent care, they aren’t as hands-on as other pets. Better still, they are just as good at listening to your problem as dogs are and sometimes even better! My cats, for example, always know when I need them. From having them purring on my chest to curling up at my feet, my two girls are masters in the art of just being there for us.
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They Reduce Depression and Anxiety.
Pets are a fantastic source of comfort and a great source of companionship and motivation. They can help you to live an overall healthier life, sometimes without realising it!
If you have depression then you may find it very difficult to get up every day, and lack the motivation to push yourself. But having a dog, for example, gives you a reason to get up every morning and even leave the house! The act of simply walking a dog can help elevate symptoms of depression by ensuring we get at least some fresh air and vitamin D.
Pets also offer us company and help reduce feelings of loneliness. Playing with, and petting an animal releases happy hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. Even just a few minutes of interaction, and playing can help us to feel more at ease, promote feelings of calmness and reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
They Support your Well-being.
Seventy-four percent of pet owners have said that owning a pet has helped them with their mental health and overall well-being. If you have human-animal interactions then this increases oxytocin in the brain, which brings about a sense of calm and focus. Cats in particular are great for this. If you have a cat then you may find that you can cope better with life and that you have a constant source of company. If you have never had a cat before then now could be the time to do some research.
They Can Help with ADHD.
If you struggle with feelings of restlessness, lack of focus and general inattentiveness then pet therapy could be the solution. Pet therapy can increase your social function while also improving your overall independence. Children who struggle with ADHD, or even adults, can also benefit from keeping a pet. By taking charge of walking, feeding and exercising, they can take responsibility for something. This gives them a focus and it also helps them to stick to a routine, which is something that a lot of people who have ADHD struggle with. Running around and playing with a pet can also release excess energy, which can lead to feelings of calm at night. This is more the case with children, but either way, it’s a great way for you to boost your mental health.
They Can Help You in Later Life.
Pets make fantastic companions for the ageing population too. They’ve proven to be fantastic at dealing with dementia patients and those living in residential care homes.
Dog-assisted therapy can improve your mood and it can also work well with your psychosocial functioning. Many care homes have resident pets, or they receive regular visits from the animals in their recreational schedule. The great thing about this is that it can provide a more homely environment.
A Sense of Purpose.
If you struggle a lot with your mental health then you’ll know the feeling of not having purpose in life. You may feel as though you were put on this earth for a reason but when you’re down, unmotivated or struggling to see the good in things, it can be hard to know what your purpose is. But if you have a pet to look after then you can give yourself a new sense of purpose. You may feel as though you have something to look after and a reason to keep going. Your dog or cat will always be happy when you come, looking forward to you feeding them and, dogs in particular, want nothing more than for you to play with and walk them!
No matter what is going on in your life, your pet will love you unconditionally and sometimes that’s all you need to start feeling better.
Have you ever considered getting a pet to benefit your mental health?
At the end of the day, even with a pet, you also need to make sure that you’re doing what you can to look after your mental health. Take steps to benefit yourself and your well-being today, tomorrow and as you move forward in life. But if you want to make a life-changing difference to your life then a pet could be the best way to do that. Just make sure you give some thought to the type of pet you want and their needs, so you can ensure that you are giving them the quality of care that they need to live a long happy, healthy life.