May 22, 2024

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Reaping the Mental Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

4 min read

Many pet owners report feeling less stressed and more content after welcoming a furry companion into their lives, but why?

Interacting with pets releases oxytocin, or the bonding hormone. Studies have also revealed that simply petting an animal such as a dog, cat or turtle relieves stress.

1. They Can Help You Fight Depression

Studies demonstrate that having pets reduces depression. Pets provide companionship and help us feel less alone – which makes for easier socialization between people with social anxiety and those without it.

Dogs, cats, and other animals are excellent at reading their owners’ moods and providing comfort. Additionally, pets can help people fight depression by encouraging physical activity; pets provide motivation to get out of bed each morning by motivating people to walk their pet or play with it instead of watching television all day long.

Possessing a pet also helps combat depression as it encourages people to care for it in meaningful ways and this makes them feel good about themselves while giving back to their pet.

2. They Can Help You Stay Active

An animal’s natural instinct to survive requires them to have a daily routine in order to remain healthy and content, so taking your pup for a walk, cleaning out their litterbox or feeding your hamster adds structure and connection with life.

Caregiving for pets will increase physical activity and thus boost your mood by lowering blood pressure and increasing levels of mood-enhancing hormones, like endorphins. Petting a pup, for instance, is proven to quickly lower stress and anxiety levels.

Studies showed that teenage pet owners reported greater feelings of belonging and purpose compared to non-pet owners; however, high quality prospective experimental studies are sparse in literature; more research needs to be conducted; but current evidence indicates pet ownership can bring psychological benefits for those diagnosed with mental health conditions.

3. They Can Help You Fight Anxiety

Pets can provide relief from anxiety by fulfilling our basic human need for touch, while at the same time forcing us to live in the present rather than stressing about what lies ahead or dwell on what has passed.

Pets provide us with a sense of purpose and love, helping those suffering from social anxiety to feel more at ease interacting with others and opening up.

As much as pets may help mental health issues, they shouldn’t be seen as the solution. Pet ownership takes both time and money commitment – not to mention mourning when your furry friend dies – so if neither resource nor interest exists for having one it might be wiser to look elsewhere for ways to elevate mood such as getting involved with support groups or speaking to counselors.

4. They Can Help You Learn Responsibility

Pets can not only benefit our mental health, but they also teach children responsibility. Caring for an animal that relies on you for food, shelter and love requires immense dedication; children can learn this trait by performing age-appropriate pet chores with positive reinforcement when they perform them well. Furthermore, it may be wise to give children choice over which caregiving tasks they wish to be responsible for; this way they feel truly owned while staying motivated to fulfill these duties.

If your child is insisting that a pet should become part of the family, have a talk with them about responsibility and its rewards in owning an animal. Remind them that pets need daily attention but in return offer us lots of unconditional joy in return! Remind them also that having one requires some form of daily commitment but its reward comes in form of happy tail-wagging gratitude from its master!

5. They Can Help You Make Better Decisions

Pet ownership can help those suffering from mental health conditions reduce stress and increase overall happiness, since dogs release feel-good chemicals into the body such as oxytocin and dopamine that can make us feel relaxed and content, relieving symptoms of depression as well as feelings of social isolation that could otherwise lead to worse health outcomes and premature deaths.

Pets can help motivate us to be more active by giving us an excuse to get outside and exercise more frequently. Before adopting one, though, be sure to consider your lifestyle and determine whether you are ready for the responsibility associated with caring for one. If in doubt, start small – such as getting a fish or cat as an example – until you see how it fits with your routine.

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