7 Ways Pets Improve Your Mental Health
Life is full of struggles, challenges, ups and downs. While having a solid support system of loved ones is important for one’s emotional wellbeing, having a pet can also aid against negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety and loneliness.
You probably have heard of therapy animals or emotional support animals: pets that are used to provide comfort and affection to people who need emotional support, whether they are their owners, children in a hospital or seniors in a nursing home.
The warmth felt when a person bonds with an animal is literally therapeutic.
The many benefits of pet therapy have been proven time and time again in countless studies. Animals help us overcome negative emotions and give us love and companionship. Research has also shown that all types of living pets have a positive improvement on mental health, including guinea pigs, fish and turtles.
Even for people who have never had a pet of their own, there’s no denying the internal fuzzies felt when petting or caring for an animal.
If you’re interested in exactly how animals help us, below are seven ways pets can improve your mental health:
Relieve depression or sadness
Pets actually boost their owners’ serotonin and dopamine levels, which are neurotransmitters that improve mood. This may help reduce symptoms of depression, similar to some types of antidepressants. We’re also more likely to smile when we’re around our pets. Cuddling with them, petting them, feeding them, grooming them and playing with them stimulate a unique type of happiness that pet owners share.
Research has also shown that stress and anxiety decrease when a person pets or grooms an animal, including people who suffer from anxiety disorders, such as PTSD. The calming nature of a simple, repetitive task, combined with the animal’s signal of pleasure can be comforting and healing. For some of us, that’s all it takes to overcome a stressful situation or bad day. For others, it’s a helpful method used to manage anxiety.
Provide a purpose
It’s common to hear pet owners exclaim that their beloved animal gives them a sense of purpose. When consumed with negative thoughts, those who we know need us provide us with a heartfelt reason to carry on and even improve ourselves. Our pets depend on us for food, water, safety and love.
Make you active
Our animal companions get us moving, whether it’s for walks or for playing, they get us off the sofa and can keep us active. Larger pets, such as dogs and horses, require a lot of energy to train, exercise and play with, which increases endorphins and improves mood, as well as helps one get more sunshine and and fresh air. But even moving around or going into the backyard to play with a small pet has a positive impact.
Encourages stability and routines
Having a pet means having responsibilities, and these tasks encourage healthy routines in the pet owner’s life. When suffering from a mental illness or going through any type of emotional distress, life may not feel stable and routines may feel farfetched or undesirable. But caring for an animal is an excellent motivator for routine. Our animal friends live in the present and keep us in the present, too.
The social bond created between a pet and its owner is one of the most beautiful gifts. A pet can take the role of one’s child, sibling or best friend, and they are always available when we need them, whether it’s for a hug or to lend an always-listening ear. This unique companionship makes pet owners feel less lonely and ultimately increase happiness.
Your pet loves you! The unconditional love that develops between a pet owner and their animal is a strengthening, fulfilling bond. A pet sees the best in you, believes in you and wants your forever affection. And let’s face it – your pet deserves it.
Searching for a pet? Let these organizations help you find your new best friend:
- Second Chance Dog Rescue adoption events
- The Barking Lot
- San Diego Humane Society
- Wee Companions Small Animal Adoption
- Martin’s Home
- San Diego Herpetological Society
- HiCaliber Horse Rescue
Taking care of your emotional wellbeing is prudent for a satisfying life, as well as the lives of your children. For more information about enhancing your emotional wellbeing, check out Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups’ articles.