How Pets Benefit Your Mental Health

Our pets are a source of joy and love in our lives, but did you know your pet can help improve your mental health too? If you have a pet, you know the happiness they bring but may not know how your furry friend may be helping you cope and ward off illnesses. We compiled a list of ways owning a pet can benefit your mental health and how your companionship benefits them as well.

How Pets Benefit Your Mental Health

Having an animal companion can significantly improve your mental health and offer physical health benefits as well. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute has found that the relationship between a human and an animal can be mutually beneficial and help each live a happier life. Their companionship can help you cope with negative feelings and the responsibility or caring for a pet can encourage you to be more active, which has great health benefits.

Animals have even become a part of mental health treatment programs. For example, therapists may prescribe a therapy cat or dog to their patients. There's also equine-assisted therapy, which involves interacting with horses. This type of therapy helps with emotional issues and is also used to help people with autism. But you don't need to attend a therapy program to receive these benefits, and any type of pet you have or want to get can help benefit your mental health. Read more to find out how you and your pet can benefit each other.

Having a Pet Can Encourage Being More Active

Pets encourage physical activity, which has been proven to increase dopamine and serotonin levels. Higher dopamine and serotonin levels help manage both depression and anxiety. Every time you take your dog for a walk, you're modeling a reward system in your brain that will release dopamine and serotonin regularly. You also can engage in more physical activities by playing with your pet. For example, playing with teaser toys with your cat helps you to get up and move around. Even cleaning up after your pet helps you to become more active by getting up and moving around.

Exercise is also great for your pet, and it's important to ensure that they get enough exercise for the type of animal that they are. Playing with your pet also helps strengthen your bond and can make them happier.

Pets Alleviate Stress

Playing with and handling your pet can lower stress-related hormones within five minutes, according to studies. This time spent with your pet is important for them, too, as they need regular engagement. When you're holding, watching, or playing with your pet you may smile or laugh, which triggers the release of hormones. These hormones such as dopamine and serotonin also help relax the nervous system, causing you to feel less stressed.

You may have already experienced the stress-reducing qualities of your pet when you pet or hold them after a difficult day. It's a good practice for both pet and owner to spend time interacting each day.

Pets Reduce Feelings of Loneliness

Having a pet can provide you with company whenever you're home. You can even bring your pet with you when you go out if you're going to be in a place that allows animals. Pets become your friends, so you feel less lonely getting to hang out with them.

Your company and friendship is also beneficial to your pet. Most animals don't like to be solitary and require at least one partner. Giving your pet ample attention each day can keep them from feeling lonely.

Pets Can Help Cope With Depression

Pets can help with depression in a number of ways. As our companions, they offer support and company, which can soothe feelings of loneliness. Our interactions with them also help release more hormones that alleviate feelings of depression. Many people are happier when they're with their pet, and owning an animal can provide you with activities to look forward to.

Pets Provide Structure in Your Life

Owning a pet gives you several daily responsibilities, such as feeding, cleaning and exercising with them. Performing these activities helps you build a routine and can provide more structure in your life. This can be good for those struggling with their mental health because sometimes it can be difficult to find motivation. Taking care of your pet is good motivation for completing activities during each day.

Structure is also helpful for your pet. Having a feeding time, for example, can help manage a healthy weight. The routine you create for your pet can also influence healthy eating and cleaning habits for yourself.

Your Pet Can Help You Gain Confidence

According to the American Psychological Association, your pet can increase your self-esteem. Animals can provide unconditional love which helps you to feel better about yourself. Pet owners also reported to the American Psychological Association that their pet helps them overcome a fear of rejection. Also, in doing things for your pet, you may gain the confidence to perform these actions or similar actions for yourself.

Having a Pet Helps You Meet New People

Having a pet can help to relate to other people who have a pet. Your pet may help you become more social because you can attend events centered around them. For example, there are festivals for all kinds of animals that pet owners can attend to find cool products for their pet and learn about how to take care of their pet. If you have a dog, you may meet people at dog parks.

Many animals like to socialize too, so it can be beneficial to take them out to meet other people and pets. Always use caution when introducing your pet to new people, places, and other animals, and give them time to adjust.

Be sure to reward your furry friend for their love and companionship. As they're helping with your health, be sure that you're maintaining theirs. You can call or schedule an appointment online for a wellness checkup at either of our clinics for your pet. Check out our resource center to learn more about how you can keep your pet happy and healthy.

Bolonka Timmi by Maya Dumat is licensed with CC BY 2.0

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