Animal-lovers know that pets are powerful mood boosters. Having a pet has numerous mental health benefits and can help many cope with their stress, anxiety, or depression.
Our pets are incredibly attuned to our emotions. Dogs can interpret body language, gestures, and more. Numerous studies have shown that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression, have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, make fewer visits to the doctor, get more exercise, and have increased levels of serotonin and dopamine, which help to relax us.
Our pets fulfill the need for touch and petting an animal can calm us down and ease loneliness. If you have a pet or are considering adopting a pet into your home, there are many mental and physical health benefits.
Get More Exercise
Dogs require exercise just like we do. Taking your dog for a walk or a run is a great way to incorporate healthy physical habits for you both. People with pets are also more likely to stick to an exercise routine since pets like structure and schedules (like how your pup always knows when it’s time to eat!).
Find Relief from Stress
Pets provide companionship and can help combat feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Caring for pets make people feel loved and wanted and may provide a confidence boost for many people suffering from mental health conditions to venture outside of their homes.
Older? Pets are great for Aging Adults
As older adults retire and have children move away, caring for a pet can help older people find joy and meaning in their lives. Pets boost morale and give many a sense of self-worth. Pets also keep older adults active and encourage social connection. Pets are a great way to initiate a conversation with others.
For adults with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, pets help lower stress, provide positive, nonverbal communication, and can decrease aggressive behaviors.
Have Kids? Pets benefit them, too!
Children who have pets have been clinically shown to be at less risk of developing allergies and asthma. Pets also give children the opportunity to learn responsibility and how to show empathy. Kids with pets have a more positive self-image and benefit from the companionship of a pet.
Many children with mental health conditions benefit from specially trained pets. Children with Autism benefit from creating emotional connections to a pet and provide stress relief.
Pets are a major commitment and are not a “cure-all” for those with mental health conditions. If you or a loved one are not an animal lover, owning a pet probably isn’t appropriate. Pets do require money, time and attention, and could potentially cause more stress if they are not well-trained.
If you are considering getting a pet, take the time to find one that fits your lifestyle. Do you want a pet that needs little exercise or are you looking for a running buddy? How much space do you have for a pet? What about children or potential family members with allergies (many breeds are available that are better for those with allergies)?
If a pet isn’t for you but you do love animals, consider walking a friend or neighbor’s dog, volunteering at an animal shelter, or working with organizations that provide therapy dogs and cats to hospitals, schools, and nursing homes.