“A dog is a man’s best friend.” But research has come to teach us that pretty much any pet can be your best friend. The bond between humans and animals dates back several centuries. Over time the relationship between humans and animals has evolved from one based on usefulness to one based on care and love.
According to a Harris poll carried out in 2015, 95% of pet owners consider their pets part of the family. And these unconventional family members come with health boons, like lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and heart disease risk. These perks may arise as a consequence of the additional exercise that playing and walking involve, and the stress relief that comes from having your best buddy by your side all of the time.
An estimated 68% of U.S households have a pet, even though pets are often kept for companionship above all else.
They can be beneficial to your mental health in the following ways:
Pets Reduce Stress
When work, relationships, or other aspects of your life put a strain on your mind, a pet often helps reduce such stress. According to research, simply petting your pet decreases the stress hormone cortisol, and interaction between humans and their pets, particularly dog owners, boosts levels of the feel-good hormone. (Oxytocin)- the same hormone that bonds a mother to her kids. Even watching fish swim in an aquarium reduces stress and helps you relax and practice mindfulness.
Owning a pet means taking care of their daily needs. Putting together a schedule for grooming, feeding, and playing with a pet is an excellent way to bring order and predictability to other aspects of your life. Routines give a fundamental sense of control to those suffering from anxiety or depression. Also, children taking care of pets develop a sense of responsibility at a young age, which will help them later in life
Pets Boost Physical Activities
Come rain, come snow, come sunshine; some pet owners have no other choice than to walk their pets, thus providing them with a compulsory dose of exercise daily.
Some pets require more activities than others, so it’s advisable to pick a pet whose activity levels match yours or drives you to exercise more.
Pets Increase our Sense of Self-esteem & Well-Being
Pet owners are known to have better self-esteem, be less fearful, and be more extroverted than others. In a report published by the American Psychological Association, pets increased the feelings of belonging, self-esteem, and meaning to their owner.
Thus, it is safe to conclude that pets improved the general well-being of their owners.
Pets Support Recovery
Having a pet is incredibly beneficial to people healing from mental health conditions. Researchers have found evidence that having a pet benefits individuals battling mental health conditions. The reports from the research indicated that pets helped their owners manage their emotions and distract them from the symptoms of their mental health condition. In the case of veterans living with PTSD, service dogs played a vital role as a form of complementary treatment for PTSD.
Everyone battling mental illness should be able to access mental health treatment, resources, support, as well as interaction with a companion animal. The more people understand the health benefits of human-animal bonds, the more likely we will see pet-friendly businesses, apartment complexes, and therapy animals welcomed in nursing homes, hospitals, college campuses, and other settings. Hence, through research and campaigning, the role of pets in boosting mental health can expand.
Guest Post by James Adisa