Interesting Facts

8 Ways Pets Can Help Your Mental Health

We all know it—pets are amazing. No matter what type of animal you have, whether they be furry, feathered, scaly or none of the above, we know pets without a doubt make our lives better—even if they can make our wallets a little lighter.

Here’s the ways pets enrich our lives:

Companionship

Life can get hard, and loneliness sure doesn’t help. Unlike complicated human relationships, pets provide unconditional love. They will always be there for you, for as long as they live—and they’re always happy to see you, especially if you have snacks.

They love you, no matter how you feel about yourself. Animals don’t care about your weight, your skin, your religion, your hobbies, your sexuality, how much you earn, or if you’re totally bombing out at everything. You’re their entire world, and that unconditional love means absolutely everything and can give you a reason to hold on.

Distractions

Life can be overwhelming, especially if you have anxiety or other mental illness. Pets can help you live meaningful lives by distracting you from unfortunate events. Pets can help you focus on the small things, and small reasons to keep living—like the longing to feel their fur. When I’m heartbroken, my dog licked my tears away and snuggled me for days. Having their love makes that emptiness inside seem a little less vacant. Focusing on your pet, their fur, noises, movements and even watching them breathe can also be an excellent grounding technique during panic attacks.

Feeling stressed? Pat a fluffy animal!
Image supplied.

Depression

Aside from making us feel better with their love and companionship, pets also keep us engaged in daily life. Pets need food. They need attention. They need walks, and they need to be cleaned. This forces us out of bed—especially with pets like dogs that require walks. Establishing a positive routine can be amazing for depression, as well as a number of mood disorders like PTSD—and when you start to establish a positive routine, you can consider beginning the next steps in working on making your life, goals and dreams. They can give you a reason to life, and live as well as you can.

My cat Tilly gave me a reason to get out of bed—and a reason to work hard and get a good job, so I could provide for her, spoil her, and give her the best life possible.

Humour

Simple, but important—and as the old clichés go, laughter is the best medicine. So focus on the small things. Watch them chase their tails, run around the room frantically, play with toys, and any other odd antics. And if you can’t, Google pet videos. Bless you, internet.

Ease stress

Stress takes a toll on our bodies—and animals have been shown to help those with mental and physical disorders become more aware of their social environment, improve relationships and promote social extroversion. Pets can help lower stress hormones and fear, calm your heart rate and encourage feelings of calmness—particularly kittens!

Help you live healthier

Dogs, and other active pets, may be “beneficial in reducing cardiovascular risk in their owners by providing social support and motivation for physical activity, according to a 2017 study of 3.4 million people in Sweden. Having a do reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 36%, and pet owners are less likely to be obese, and live more active lives with their four-legged friends.

Pets can help your mental health by encouraging you to live a healthier life. Image via Pexels.

Help you socialise

Pet owners and lovers can always bond over talking about animals—especially if one is present. Take your pup to a dog park. And if leaving the house isn’t an option, join internet forums to make some online friends; a great option for the anxious.

Protection

Obviously this point isn’t particularly accurate for say . . . goldfish owners. But other animals like dogs and even some cats? Protection is a huge factor. Even if they’re small, pets can make you feel safe—and that calmness is integral for a positive mindset. As an owner of two large American Staffies, I feel very safe in my home—despite the fact that they’re actually two of the most loving animals in the world who are scared of thunder and love snuggles.

But . . .

Make sure you’re well enough to look after a pet, their day-to-day responsibilities and unexpected costs. Pets are for life—and that sometimes means you have to give up certain things, like spontaneous trips.

Don’t have your own pet? Make friends who do, volunteer at a shelter, or consider joining a company to walk and care for local dogs. Because everyone deserves to reap the benefits of pets—even those who aren’t well enough or can’t afford to own one.

Zoe is a journalist with a passion for all things wacky and strange. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter for more!

 

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