The bond between humans and their pets is powerful. According to a study published in 2009 (1), the vast majority of pet owners consider pets not as animals but as parts of their family, given the immediate joy that comes with sharing our lives with them. The pleasure of snuggling up to our kitties is certainly healing after a stressful day at work and there’s nothing better than being welcomed home by a wagging tail. Our pets give us love and affection and they are usually the protagonists of funny anecdotes we tell our friends and family members. However, did you know that pets bring about many mental health benefits into our lives?
The real and unconditional love pets give us can brighten our days in different ways. Thanks to the bond we typically form with them, pets can provide emotional support and comfort, reduce stress, anxiety and loneliness, and even help you become fitter. If you are wondering about the ways in which having a pet can change your life for the better, keep on reading and discover the 7 ways pets are good for your mental health.
#1 - What Is Mental Health?
Mental health is often used as a term that represents the absence of illness, such as depression or anxiety. However, it’s a lot more complex than that. Mental health is an integral component of our well-being and it involves our emotional and social well-being. It is determined by how we handle positive and negative feelings, how we relate to others, and how we make decisions.
We can’t really enjoy life (no matter how physically healthy we may be) if we are constantly under stress, heartbroken, or we don’t know how to build healthy relationships with others. This is where your pet can help by providing you with emotional support and companionship, among other benefits for your health and well-being.
#2 - So, Are Pets Good for Mental Health?
No matter how many pairs of socks they eat or how many pairs of slippers they steal from us, we love our pets. They are plain adorable and give us cuddles, purrs, and unconditional love. But perhaps most importantly, they make us happy. There’s a scientific reason behind the joy we feel when we play with one of our pets: interacting with an animal has been proven to raise our levels of oxytocin and dopamine, two chemicals that make us feel warm and fuzzy. So, if today’s been ruff, bear in mind that stroking your pet can lift your spirits in just minutes!
#3 - How Do Pets Help With Mental Health?
Our pets have evolved to become attuned to humans and our emotions. Have you ever come back from work feeling down and exhausted only to sit down and have your cat purr and come to you for treats? That’s because they have learned to interpret our body language, tone of voice, and even gestures. Some dogs can provide emotional support and are used in different treatments, such as speech therapy. Many people who don’t know how to interact with others do respond well to therapy dogs!
For all of these reasons, our pets are good for our mental health because:
- We are less likely to suffer from depression and loneliness.
- We produce more feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin just by playing with an animal for a few minutes.
- We get to socialise more with other people who love animals as much as we do.
So, let’s cut to the chase and take a deep look at all the ways in which pets affect our mental health (and why this is a good thing!).
#4 - 7 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Mental Health
Our furry friends can benefit us in ways you may not have thought about, especially when it comes to mental health. Pets and happiness go together, and you don’t necessarily have to own a cat or a dog to feel the benefits of pets in your mental health! If you are allergic to these types of animals, a rabbit, a snake, or even a hedgehog can be your best companions, especially if you don’t have a lot of space at home. Even having an aquarium can help reduce tension and stress. Here are 7 ways in which pets improve your mental health.
- Reduce Anxiety, Depression & Stress
Snuggling next to your puppies while they rumble is a proven antidote to daily stress, anxiety, and even depression. Many studies show that pets have a relaxing effect on us. Stroking an animal no matter how briefly, for example, can increase feel-good hormones like oxytocin and reduce stress hormones like cortisol (2).
Plus, the comforting feeling that having some loving company gives us is a great way to forget about the strains of daily life and reduce the risk of suffering from loneliness and depression.
- Help you meet new people
Struggling with expanding your social circle? Here is some good news: walking Fido every day can also help you socialise and make new friends. Dog owners often stop and chat with each other on walks, and having a common interest usually means the conversation flows easily. A study published in 2015 shows that people who own a pet are more likely to meet and befriend their neighbours than those who don’t (3).
And socialising is not only limited to dog owners! You can also use other pet topics, like the best type of food to buy for your rabbit, to spark up conversations in pet shops, the gym, or even online Facebook groups. You’ll never run out of something to talk about and connect with other animal lovers!
- Add structure and routine to your day
Your pet, regardless of whether it is a dog, a cat, a rabbit, or a snake, will rely on you completely. You will have to feed, exercise, and care for your pet every day, and this is great to stay grounded and focused. Many people struggle to establish a daily routine and manage anxiety levels, especially if they don’t have an activity with a schedule. The good news is that your furry friend can help with that, giving your day purpose and even a sense of achievement.
- Receive Companionship
No matter how many Facebook friends we have or how many Instagram stories we post, it’s very common today to feel alone. Do you find it hard to talk to someone who cares about your day? Maybe you come back home at night and find your home empty and lonely? A pet can provide you with companionship and help you feel less alone. Most pet owners talk to them to work through their troubles, and we can assure you that nothing beats the feeling of a lonely home than coming from work to a wagging tail!
- Stay Active
Our mental health is undoubtedly influenced by our physical state, and a big part of staying healthy and thriving is to do exercise daily. We understand it may be hard to include a new activity into your routine, so why not combine it with taking your pet out? Walking your dog, for example, can be an excellent opportunity to go for a walk, or even for a run. You’ll be deepening your connection while staying fit and healthy! Plus, exercising every day is beneficial and necessary for the animal as well.
If you are a dog owner, here are some examples of how you can strengthen your bond while exercising daily!
- Do doggy yoga. Also called Doga, this practice uses many of the traditional yoga poses slightly modified to include your four-legged friend. In addition to being soothing for both you and your pet, doga is a great bonding experience!
- You can also go swimming with your dog and have some fun together. Swimming is low-impact, so it’s great in case you have problems with your joints or simply don’t enjoy jumping or running. Just make sure your dog enjoys swimming, because not all of them do!
- Have an Increased Self-Esteem
Having a fluffy friend can help you feel less stressed out and stay fit, but did you know it can help you with your self-esteem, too? One study published in 2020 (4), for example, examines how pet ownership is associated with a positive image, with owners receiving good reactions when showing a picture of their pet, for example. This, in turn, increases our self-esteem and our sense of value.
Furthermore, our animals themselves can increase our feelings of self-worth. Dogs and cats, for example, can consider their owners as members of their “pack” and look for love, affection, and respect (5). So, having a pet can also boost your confidence and help you feel part of a family.
- Last But Not Least … Pets Give Us Unconditional Love
In addition to being great listeners and the best company, our pets love us unconditionally. They will never criticise or judge us, and are quick to forgive our faults. The gentle nudge of a nose with which they show us their love is many times enough to lift up our spirits. And this kind of unconditional love helps us improve our mental health in a myriad of ways, such as reducing our anxiety levels (6), increasing our self-esteem, and helping you avoid the risk of suffering from depression. Spend time with your pet to strengthen your bond and enjoy their love!
Cuddle With Your Pet for Improved Mental Health
People usually say pets are our best and unconditional friends for a reason. Sure, they require attention, time, and a lot of patience but this is only a small price to pay in return for the happiness they bring into our lives (even by only tripping with their own feet!). Also, pets can help us improve our much-needed mental health simply by being by our side. Having a pet will ease loneliness, give you structure, promote exercise and physical activity, and even help you cope with negative feelings and anxiety.
And if you’re struggling with feelings of stress, you can always complement this pet “therapy” with natural health supplements that improve your quality of life. For instance, you can try out our Deep Sleep Mode to relax and get the rest you need. It promotes 8 hours of sleeping without interruptions and will give you a boost of energy and focus as soon as you wake up!
If you’d like to learn more about the types of natural supplements you can incorporate into your routine to take your health to the next level, why not take our Comprehensive Health Assessment? It’s easy, quick, free and will give you a personalised recommendation on the best products for you.