7 Ways Pets Improve Your Mental Health
Dogs, cats, and other pets are cute and cuddly companions that many people welcome into their family. In recent years, society has started to appreciate the intelligence and calming effect pets can have on their owners.
The increasing number of pets has caused a booming pet industry for all kinds of pet needs. When bringing a puppy or other pet home, new owners are sometimes not sure of what necessities they should have in regards to comfort. A welcoming place to make your puppy feel comfortable at night can help reduce behavioral issues.
If you’re not aboard the pet train yet, you’re missing out.
From Childhood to Old Age – Pets Improve Lives
Many people look back fondly on their childhood pets. Having pets can teach children empathy and responsibility, as well as boost their mental health. However, people of all ages can benefit from owning pets, including senior citizens.
Studies show that pets can give the elderly a sense of purpose and help them recover after serious medical complications. The loyalty and companionship of pets can be a literal lifesaver.
7 Ways Pets Benefit Your Mental Health
Airports and hospitals have two things in common: they are both very stressful, and it is increasingly common for them to bring in dogs to reduce stress. Dogs are the most popular therapy animal, but any type of pet can benefit mental health.
Here are seven ways pets can boost your mental health.
1. Pets Reduce Your Stress
In general, pets have calm and cool demeanors that can have a calming effect on their owners. Everyone has stress from at least one source of their life, if not multiple sources. Stress affects the body physically and mentally. It can cause insomnia, high blood pressure, and even heart problems.
Experts believe that just petting an animal, particularly your own pet, can increase your body’s dopamine production, which is a chemical in the brain that brings calmness and happiness.
Stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Pets can reduce both by keeping you in the moment instead of worrying about the past or the future.
2. Pets Curb Depression
Another byproduct of stress is depression. Loneliness is a cornerstone of depression. Pets can help us feel less alone and loved just by being near us. The animals require daily feeding and general care, which can help ease the feeling of uselessness.
Pets are often attuned to the moods of humans. When their owner is feeling sad, pets often know to offer extra cuddles. Even cats, who are known to be aloof, can provide comfort for depression.
3. Pets Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It is often caused by high blood pressure, which is directly related to stress. Since pets reduce stress and keep their owners calm, by extension, they also lower the risk of heart disease and other illnesses.
Studies show that pet owners are more likely to recover from surgeries and other medical events than people who don’t own pets.
4. Pets Reduce Allergy Risk in Children
Some people are allergic to pet dander, particularly from cats and dogs. Scientists believe that exposing children to pets at a young age can actually decrease the likelihood that that child will develop allergies in the future.
Much like children become immune to germs by being exposed to them, the same applies to allergy-causing pollutants.
5. Pets Increase Self-Esteem
Pets make us feel good about ourselves. Their happy-go-lucky personality rubs off on their owners. Caring for a pet can also give us a significant boost to our self-esteem.
Unlike other people, pets don’t judge us, but rather, they accept us for who we are. That can help make us see ourselves through their eyes and increase our self-worth.
6. Pets Improve Fitness
Another way pets boost our self-esteem is by helping us keep fit, especially dogs. While other pets may be more sedentary, dogs need daily walks and playtime. That can help owners stay healthy and active.
Exercise also helps ease stress, depression, and other mental health issues. So, by extension, our pets are improving every aspect of our lives.
7. Pets Boost Social Skills
And we don’t mean the conversations you have with your pets. If you have a dog that you routinely walk, you have likely been approached by dog owners, children, or others inquiring about your dog. For children, pets can be conversation starters that lead to better social skills.
As we age, it becomes more difficult to make friends and connections. Owning pets can help break the ice and make forming friendships later in life easier. Our mental health can also get a boost if other people show us photos or, even better, introduce us to their pets. Owning a pet is win-win.
Owning a Pet is Worth the Commitment
Owning a pet may be beneficial to our physical and mental health, but it’s also a serious commitment. When we welcome a pet into our home, we are responsible for their care for however many years we are graced with their presence.
Another thing to consider before getting a pet is if your mental health can withstand the eventual loss of a pet.
The sad truth is that pets don’t live nearly as long as they should, and losing them can have a drastic effect on our mental health. However, millions of people choose to disregard the future loss and live in the moment, as our pets teach us to do.
About the Author: Leo Wilson graduated from a university major in animal health and behavior. He had over a decade of experience working in the pet industry and has contributed many dog and pet-related articles to several websites before he decided to start sharing his knowledge on his own blog. And when he is not busy working, he and his wonderful wife love spending time at home with their three dogs and two cats.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.