Pets can bring joy, companionship, and unconditional love into our lives, and for those seeking mental health care, they can also provide a range of benefits for our mental and emotional well-being. Here are some of the ways that having a pet can be beneficial for your mental health:
Pets can reduce stress and anxiety
Studies have shown that interacting with animals can lower levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress. Spending time with a pet can also increase levels of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes feelings of calm and well-being. Simply petting a dog or cat can be soothing and help to reduce feelings of anxiety.
Pets can provide companionship and reduce loneliness
For those who live alone or feel isolated, pets can provide a sense of companionship and alleviate feelings of loneliness. A pet can be a loyal and loving companion, always there to provide a listening ear and a warm cuddle. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that pet owners had lower levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness than non-pet owners.
Pets can promote physical activity
Many pets require regular exercise, such as walking a dog or playing with a cat. This can be a great way to get some exercise and fresh air, which can be beneficial for both physical and mental health. Exercise has been shown to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as improve overall mood. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that dog owners were more likely to meet recommended physical activity levels than non-dog owners.
Pets can increase social interaction
Pets can also be a great way to meet new people and increase social interaction. Whether it's chatting with other dog owners at the park or attending a pet-related event, pets can provide an opportunity for socializing and connecting with others.
Pets can provide a sense of purpose
Caring for a pet can provide a sense of purpose and responsibility, which can be especially important for those struggling with mental health issues. Having a pet to care for can give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning and provide a sense of accomplishment and pride. We also know that having dependents, including pets, can be a protective factor against suicide.
While having a pet can be beneficial for mental health, it's important to remember that owning a pet also comes with responsibilities and challenges. It's important to make sure that you have the time, resources, and support to care for a pet properly before making the decision to bring one into your life.