Having a pet carries a lot of physical and psychological benefits for the wellbeing of the owner. Here, we are talking about benefits for both mental health and physical health. With stats showing that over 80million homes in the US alone have an animal companion, it is evident that humans and animals can share a firm bond.
There is also a strong connection between having a pet and a positive mental health status. Pet owners would agree that their pets can be a great source of companionship, comfort and motivation.
Many studies prove that pets can help their owners have healthier mental wellbeing in many ways; we highlight some of these mental health benefits in this article.
1. Interacting with Pets Reduces Stress
Playing with a pet can increases our level of serotonin and dopamine. These are pleasure related hormones that can stabilize and relax the nervous system. When we smile or laugh at our pets when they act cute or funny, these “happiness hormones” are released and can also help relieve one from stress and anxiety.
Furthermore, interacting with a friendly dog can reduce stress hormone such as cortisol, and stimulate the release of oxytocin which naturally reduces stress. This is the science behind many animal-assisted therapies.
2. Pets Reduce Childhood Anxiety
According to a research study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pets may protect children from anxiety. In the research, a total of 643 children were examined with more than half of them as pet owners. The children’s body mass index (BMI), screen time, physical activity, and anxiety level where measured, and they shared similar results for all criteria except anxiety level.
The stats showed that 21 percent of the children without pets tested positive on a screening test for anxiety. Only 12 percent of children with pets came out negative for anxiety. This research clearly shows that pets can be beneficial to the wellbeing of a child by reducing stress and anxiety
3. Pets Make Us Feel Relevant and Needed
Pet owners feel more needed whenever they take care of their pets. The single act of care for another living thing has mental health benefits. It gives us a sense of meaning and purpose, and this was made clear in a 2016 study centred on pets and mental health. In this study, five caged crickets were given to a group of elderlies to cater for in the space of eight weeks.
When the researchers compared the result, they got from the elderly with the results from another control group that didn’t care for pets under the same conditions.
They observed that participants that were with crickets were less depressed than those in the control group after eight weeks. Therefore, doing things for the benefit of others can reduce depression and loneliness.
4. Pets Help Build Relationships
Pet owners often get to meet and have conversations when they take their pets for a walk, and this helps them stay socially connected and build relationships. Socially active people tend to be mentally healthier.
People who have more social relationships tend to experience some social and mental health benefits. Some of such includes; better self-esteem, lower rates of anxiety and depression, become happier and more optimistic, have more vital emotional regulation skills, Improved cognitive function, empathy, and can build trust toward others.
Many pieces of research show that it is easy for people who are emotionally attached to their pets to build relationships with other people. Some pets are highly sensitive to human emotions, and dogs make a perfect example.
Equine-Assisted Therapy is an example of animal-assisted relationship skills development. In this therapy, teenagers create meaningful relationships with their horses. And build confidence through horse riding strategies. Subsequently, they transfer their acquired experience to develop meaningful relationships with family and friends.
5. Pets Give Unconditional Love
Pet are going to love their owners regardless of their situations. For example, pets don’t judge their owners’ physical appearance, social skills or other abilities. Pets are always happy to see their owners and still want to spend time with them.
Having such unconditional love on a daily bases is good for mental health wellbeing. It makes one feel wanted and loved rather than rejected.
Having a pet in your home can help you live a more mentally healthier life. People battling with mental health issues may consider having an animal companion for emotional support.
Also, parents can buy the idea of getting having a pet around the home, for the sake of their kids. And teenagers who have troubles building meaningful relationships can try out Equine-Assisted Therapy for once.