how pets help mental health

The Power of Paws – how pets help mental health

The Power of Paws – how pets help mental health

The Brits are a nation of animal lovers, with over 52% of adults owning a pet. We share our lives with over 11 million cats, over 10 million dogs, and over 1 million rabbits [1]. That’s a lot of carrots!

And this is a great way to live, for us and for them. Researchers state that there is an increasing acknowledgment of the therapeutic function pets can play in relation to mental health [2]. So, if you need any more convincing to search for a new furry friend, check out these seven benefits as to the reasons why.

  1. Pets provide companionship

Companionship is important to us as humans. We are a sociable species and value having others around us. Research has shown that quality friendships are positively associated with life satisfaction [3] and many people regard their pet as a dear friend or family member.

Pets are valuable companions to older people, people with illnesses or disabilities, or those who live alone [4]. Research has shown that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood [5].

And even people who are surrounded by friends and family, can feel lonely. So, the companionship of a pet can have a great effect on our mental health and our life overall.  

  1. Pets reduce our stress

Pets are known to keep us calm and do so by reducing our anxiety and focusing our attention away from stressful thoughts [6]. Studies have shown that cortisol, a stress-related hormone, decreases when we interact with animals [5].

Blood pressure is also lowered and an individual may feel more at ease when engaging with a four-pawed friend [5]. So whether it’s the purr of a contented cat or the gentle snoring of a tired dog, let yourself enjoy the moment and the benefits it brings.

  1. Pets offer us unconditional love and support

The intense connection pets have with their owners is a source of emotional support in times of upset and crises [2]. Pets love us unconditionally and can be great comforters when we’re suffering or in distress. Pets are great listeners and do not criticize us, which in turn boosts our self-confidence, particularly if we feel lonely or misunderstood [4].

  1. Pets give us a routine

Feeding, walking, clearing up after them! We need to do all these actions to care for our furry friends. This prompts us into a routine and routines have many advantages for our well-being. Routines are beneficial for mental health because they reduce stress and help us sleep better [7].

Routines can also help us be more grounded and focused, because we know there are boundaries, and this helps us feel secure [4]. So, by looking after our four-legged friends, we are actually helping our own state of mind too. That’s a great win-win.

  1. Pets get you into the fresh air

This one perhaps more for dog-owners. Although those of us who get faced with a blast of cold air calling in Kitty on a dark, winter’s night, will know this too! Inhaling fresh air helps lift our spirits. Walking the dog is also a great way to add physical activity to our days, and physical activity releases endorphins, which is the feel-good hormone.

  1. Pets help you meet new friends

It’s possible you’ll also meet new people who may become friends out on your dog-walks. You may not be able to walk your cat, but you can still make friends from your love of felines, for example, if you volunteer with a cat charity or chat on an online forum.

  1. Pets give us a sense of pride

We really are a nation of animal lovers, and we take pride in their place as part of our family. When they do something sweet, learn a new trick, or are admired by a stranger or a friend, we feel a sense of pride. This increases our self-esteem and happiness [6].

Having a pet can really help our mental health but there are other ways too. Whatever your difficulties, here at My Family Psychologist, we can help with our expert knowledge and understanding. Call Luisa on 07801 079 555 or email luisa@myfamilypsychologist.com for a confidential chat.

References

  1. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/what-we-do/pdsa-animal-wellbeing-report/uk-pet-populations-of-dogs-cats-and-rabbits
  2. Brooks, H.L., Rushton, K., Lovell, K. et al.The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence. BMC Psychiatry18, 31 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1613-2
  3. Amati, V., Meggiolaro, S., Rivellini, G., & Zaccarin, S. (2018). Social relations and life satisfaction: the role of friends. Genus74(1), 7. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41118-018-0032-z
  4. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/pets-and-mental-health
  5. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/02/power-pets
  6. https://www.worldanimalprotection.org.uk/blogs/5-ways-dogs-can-help-your-mental-health
  7. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/psychological-benefits-of-routine

If you are feeling pressured or need someone to speak to, contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat about how we may be able to help.

You can contact the My Family Psychologist Offices between 8 am and 8 pm to book an appointment.

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