Pets and Mental Health
Maintaining good mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health. Poor mental health can lead to severe medical, social, and emotional disturbances. Having pets can improve your mental health in many ways. Many of us may have pets just because we like them, but we are unaware of the miracles this habit can perform to make our lives healthier and happier.
Mental health benefits of pets
Here are some of the beautiful mental health benefits you can enjoy while keeping a pet you love.
- Research shows that having pets can reduce your stress level. Small actions like patting a pet or watching fish swimming in aquarium can reduce your stress level and lower your blood pressure. It will make you mindful and relaxed.
- If you feel isolated or lonely, a pet can consistently provide honest and loyal companionship.
- Having a pet can make you an organized person. While taking care of a pet, you will have to wake up on time; and clean, feed, and exercise on time as well. This motivation and purpose can improve your wellbeing and mental health.
- A pet gives you a feeling you are needed and essential. This sense of purpose positively impacts your mental health and reduces anxiety and/or depression.
- Pets increase social interaction when you take them out or attend an animal club or a pet show. Going out to parks and beaches can allow you to make new friends, due to your shared interest in each other’s pets.
- Having a pet will improve your fitness level as you go out and exercise or when you play and get involved in activities with your pets. Research shows that dog owners have a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. Having pets and taking them out helps you to tackle any social phobias you might have, as a pet can slowly integrate you into mixing with people and they will enhance your mental health; thus, lowering your stress level and fear of meeting new people.
- Pets can help you develop healthy habits like waking up early, exercising, walking, running and outdoor activities, being caring and responsible, and building good social connections.
Choose the right pet
Once you decide you want a pet because you are interested in having one, or because you are aiming at a target such as decreasing your stress level or coping with loneliness, one crucial decision you need to make wisely is what type of pet you should choose. This decision will depend on your requirements and situation.
The first thing is – what type of pet would you prefer. What kind of pet would give you the most pleasure? The more you want to have a pet, the happier it will make you and this will determine how much quality time you will spend with your pet. Every animal and breed have certain characteristics and traits. Study the various breeds before you make your selection. While you are considering the matter, look at the following points before finalizing your choice.
- If you live alone, the situation is different, but if you live with your family, you have to make sure that other family members will not have any issues with the type of pet you are bringing home. For example, if you have tiny babies at home, it will not be a good idea to have large animals that can knock them down. Check if anyone at home has allergy issues, including yourself.
- Analyze what kind of pet you can afford in terms of finances, time, and energy. Have a deep dive into the expenditure; including food, vet’s bills, pets’ accessories, and estimate whether this will be a burden on your pocket. If you are a busy person and do not have much time to devote to your pet but need a pet for when you come home, then it will be good to have an animal that does not require much time to take care of, such as caged animals, including birds, cats or fish.
- Consider your age and energy level as these must be up to the level of taking care and managing the pet, e.g., if you have a dog, you must be able to take him out, bathe him and manage his activities in the house.
Animal-assisted therapy programs
As research has proved the connection between pets and good mental health, animal-assisted therapy programs have become significant in mental health treatment for humans. Dogs are used in therapies requiring emotional support, and horses are helpful in the mental health treatment of teens facing problems with emotions and expression. This has been made possible via the robust direct experience of nonverbal communication.
Pets for older people
Pets are even more critical for people who are suffering from loneliness and stress at an older age. Pets can play a prominent role in your healthy ageing. After retirement, you may feel left out of society, or your children may move far from you, due to their studies or jobs. In such situations, pets can provide you with companionship, and bring joy, and meaning to your life.
Pets for children
Like older people, children also gain health benefits from having pets. Having a pet at an early age builds a sense of responsibility, empathy, and compassion in a child. As pets are never critics like teachers and parents, children feel relaxed and confident with their pets. Pets make the children feel important and provide love and companionship, which allows the children to learn to build good relations with people in the future. Playing with a pet can be a doorway to learning for a child, by stimulating his or her curiosity and imagination.
Pet ownership alternatives
If you want to experience the fantastic mental health benefits of having pets but do not have the resources to keep a pet, you can still benefit from having animals around you. You can walk to a neighbor, friend, or relative who has a pet and spend some time with the animal. Another option is volunteering at an animal shelter and taking care of animals there.
There is no doubt that having a pet can improve your mental health by reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness. This will happen as you develop healthy habits while taking care of your pet. Make a wise and thoughtful decision while choosing a pet, so your adoption or purchase of a pet can be an excellent addition to your life and to those around you.