Pets are great. They may not be for everybody, but those who enjoy owning a pet can experience several mental health benefits. In fact, you can check out this article to learn more about animal-assisted therapy.
Most people who own pets know that these animals can provide them with joy. However, there are studies that show that there are several physical and mental health benefits to pet ownership. Animals have evolved alongside humans and can understand our communication, both verbal and nonverbal. Some animals are very good at understanding our emotions and desires.
Health Benefits of Pet Ownership
Pets can help us in a lot of ways. Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression and related symptoms and even have lower blood pressure during times of stress. This may be due to increased levels of serotonin and dopamine that can make us feel good, calm, and relaxed.
Having a pet is associated with increased exercise. Dogs love to go on a walk for example. Walking a dog can be an easy way to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine. It can also form a bond between you and your pet.
Dogs may be man’s best friend, but any pet can provide companionship which is a good way to feel fulfilled and reduce feelings of isolation. Talking to your pets can even be a form of therapy because it can help you work through your problems and puts them into perspective. Pets can also provide an ice breaker to form new relationships.
Animal companionship can offer comfort and help us reduce our anxiety levels. A pet can even help us build confidence in our own abilities. Pets live in the moment and can help us enjoy the present.
Pets can also help us develop routines and structures. Pets often require regular feeding and exercise or in the case of fish, reptiles, and birds, regular habitat cleaning. This can help them feel balanced and can provide the same positive feelings to you.
Touch is a good, easy way to help manage stress. Petting an animal can help us feel calm and release our stress. It can even help us lower our blood pressure.
Does it Have to Be a Dog or Cat?
Although the most studied and most popular animals are dogs and cats, other animals can provide some health benefits as well.
Reptiles can actually feel a connection with their owner and know the routine of feedings and grow accustomed to the touch of a human. Some may even ask to be picked up or petted. These are good options for those that are allergic to animal hair.
Rabbits are not especially common, but they are cute, cuddly, and energetic. Not only that, but they can live in a smaller space like an apartment. A rabbit can help you reduce the amount of cortisol and increase serotonin levels which can help to improve your overall mental health.
Birds can be another great option. A lot of species of birds live a long time and they encourage social interaction. This can be very good for introverts or those who cannot leave their home very often. They can keep your mind sharp, and a lot of birds can learn different tricks.
Fish are another choice and interacting or watching fish can help our mental health. This may be the reason that they are often found in doctor’s offices or other medical buildings. They can help calm our stress levels and physical symptoms related to anxiety.
Finding a Purpose
Sometimes it is difficult for people to find a meaning or to feel truly fulfilled. Pets can offer us a way to bring pleasure and purpose into your life. Caring for a pet and making the pet happy can be meaningful and make us have a sense of optimism that may have been lacking otherwise.
A pet can offer us a way to stay connected even if we do not feel like going out or just do not have the ability to. A good animal friend can help us meet new people or have a connection that may have been missing. They can also help us stay vital and young because animals like to play. This can help to put a smile on our face and get much needed exercise or laughter.
Pets are not judgmental like other people can be. They do not order you around (although they may ask for you to play or feed them). They are not critical, and they can provide a sense of security. We can quickly form a strong bond with a pet that may be difficult to find with another person.
Choosing a Pet
Choosing the pet for you is an important decision. People who own pets tend to be more independent and happier. However, you should make sure that you select a pet that fits your activity level, lifestyle, space, and needs.
You should consider the size of your living space. It is not good to have a large dog in a small space for many reasons. A rabbit, cat, fish, or reptile may be a better option for those who live in apartments.
If you are often away from home, you will probably want to choose a pet that will not require a lot of attention. Reptiles and fish do not need the amount of attention that mammals need for happiness.
You should also consider allergies. You do not want to have an animal around that can cause you or someone in your household allergies. Also, some animals shed a lot so if that is a probably, be sure to choose the type of breed that has little or no shedding.
Pets can be fun and provide us with emotional and physical support. They can encourage us to develop a solid routine or even give us a sense of purpose. They can also make us calm and release serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin which can all improve our mental health. If you are suffering from mental health issues, you may want to speak with a mental health professional and it never hurts to ask them about pet ownership in relation to your mental health.