Most pet owners will happily tell you that their life has improved by having a furry friend around. But there are also scientifically proven physical and mental health benefits of pets.
Spending time with pets can have a powerful effect on your well-being. From reducing anxiety, stress and depression to alleviating loneliness and isolation and even improving cardiovascular health, pets of all kinds can have a positive impact on your health.
The Mental Health Benefits of Pets
Studies have shown that people with pets are less likely to suffer from depression.
Petting animals such as dogs and cats has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and stress. It’s said that petting a dog for just 15 minutes can lower blood pressure by 10%. The stress hormone, cortisol, also reduces when you spend time with pets, while feel-good hormones serotonin and oxytocin increase.
Scientists believe that human beings have an innate need for touch and affection. Another person can fulfil this need, but stroking or hugging an animal can have the same effect.
People who own pets also tend to have higher self-esteem, especially children and teenagers. Self-esteem has a significant link with mental health and low self-esteem is linked with poor relationships, addiction, depression, and anxiety.
Having a pet is also more likely to mean that you adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as taking regular exercise. A study carried out by the University of Western Australia found that dog owners were more than three times likely to walk regularly in their local neighbourhood.
We already know that exercise and spending time in nature have a positive effect on mental health.
Getting regular exercise can help to reduce anxiety and depression and can even have a positive effect on people suffering from severe mental health conditions.
If you find it hard to get motivated to exercise, having a dog to walk every day is an easy way to get into this healthy habit.
How Pets Are Helping People Cope During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns, business closures and job losses have been hard on Australians and people all over the world. But many pet owners have found it easier to cope with the changes than those without a pet.
Animals provide vital companionship for many, which is also more critical during periods of lockdown and enforced social distancing.
Additionally, taking care of a pet helps you to stick to a daily routine and ensure you’re getting regular exercise, even though you may be spending more time at home.
Is Getting a Pet the Right Choice for You?
If you’re currently dealing with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues, keep in mind that getting a pet is not a quick fix for your medical condition.
Pet ownership requires time and money and it’s important to make sure you’re committed for the long term — cats and dogs can live for 15 years or longer.
If you’re not ready to commit to owning a cat or dog, other animals that are easier to care for can also provide many of the same benefits. Rabbits and guinea pigs are perfect for cuddling — spending time with them will release the same happy hormones as petting a cat or dog.
Even owning simple goldfish could have a positive effect on your well-being. There’s a very good reason that doctors’ and dentists’ offices often have aquariums. Watching fish swimming around their tank can be soothing and provide instant stress relief.
You could also spend time with your friends’ or neighbours’ pets by offering to walk their dog or pop in to give their cat some company while they’re at work. You could volunteer at your local animal shelter or even just visit — many shelters put out regular requests for cat and dog ‘cuddlers’.
Meet Charlie At Psychological Health Care
If you’re visiting us, you may see our meet and greet consultant Charlie (pictured) before or during your session.
He’s a friendly fellow with a sweet nature and may be available to sit on your lap during sessions (via prior arrangement). His coat is non shedding, so there shouldn’t be any allergy issues, nor any hairy mess on your clothes.
If you prefer not to meet Charlie, please be assured that he will not gain access to the waiting area unless he’s invited, so please feel confident that he won’t approach you unexpectedly.
Need Help to Improve Your Mental Well-Being?
Need help to cope more effectively with everyday events or mental health challenges? Contact Psychological Health Care today. We can provide therapy to help define your situation, improve your life and reach your goals.