There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face – Ben Williams
Most of the time, humans and animals share an extraordinary bond. This bond will usually result in positive mental health for the pet owner. It is not strange for families to consider a pet in the home as part of the family. Love and fondness for pets are not limited to specific age groups. Children, adolescents, adults and seniors find joy in their pets.
Research validates pets’ role in families and their positive impact on mental wellness and emotional support received by pet-owners or families of pets. Pets impact a person’s distress differently. According to scientific studies, human attachment to pets fosters a positive mood and help alleviate depression, stress and anxiety.
Pets are capable of providing superb companionship and unconditional love, which improves mental health and our mood. Cats and dogs are the most popular pets, which is why we will look at their health benefits and how they promote mental wellness before we look at alternative pets.
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What Are The Health Benefits Of Pets?
There is a multitude of powerful health benefits of having a pet as your companion. When you care for this pet, you get to experience the joys of sharing your life with animals. That great silent company, the playing, and the wonderful snuggling up with your furry friend have health benefits. Some of them are as follows:
Reduced Risk Of Depression
One of the most likely outcomes of an insecure attachment or dysfunctional attachment at home with a family member or other relationships can be depression. Pet owners with a strong connection with their pets are less likely to suffer from depression than people who don’t have pets or aren’t caring enough. Pets evoke positive feelings in the owners. Pets make them better equipped to avoid sinking into depression and successfully overcoming the challenges of their disorder.
A nursing home study stated that patients undergoing treatment for chronic depression saw a dramatic improvement in their attitude when they took responsibility for a dog.
Pets And Autistic children
A study in WebMd to shows how “Pets May Help Kids With Autism”. Children who have autism and any learning disabilities can learn how to regulate their stress levels and calm themselves with a pet around. Pets like dogs enable social interactions. Children in a playful environment develop the ability to laugh, converse and have fun with a pet around. Pets are excellent at giving that silent listening ear when they are sad, sometimes upset and not feeling happy. However, a word of caution, it is essential for the child and pet to bond. Do take advise on what pet will suit your child.
Lower Blood Pressure
Pet owners tend to respond better during stressful situations compared to their counterparts without pets. One study established that individuals suffering from borderline hypertension experienced a decline in their blood pressure within five months after adopting dogs from an animal shelter.
A Calming And Relaxing Effect
Pet owners who play with their dog or cats experience higher serotonin levels and dopamine (the happy hormones) produced, resulting in feelings of joy, calm, and relaxation. Studies have also shown that pets can successfully calm hyperactive or overly aggressive children.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
Most pet owners will have lower triglyceride ad cholesterol levels compared to people without pets. Dog owners, for example, have to walk their dog regularly, which is also an excellent way for them to be in great physical shape.
Fewer Visits To Doctors For Seniors
Pet owners over the age of 65 are happier, in great shape, and less lonely. Pets help them be more content in general. Mental wellness and physical wellness are connected. Hence many health conditions might not even surface under such conditions. These seniors experience calmness and that soothing feeling when they stroke, hug or pat a loving pet. Pets do wonders, especially during situations of anxiety or stress. With such tremendous advantages, this means fewer visits to their doctors than seniors who live without pets.
Does Being A Pet Owner Come With Positive Lifestyle Changes?
Pets not only make excellent companions, but they also enhance mental wellness and improves a person’s lifestyle. Pets are the best counsellors around. They are compassionate and give unconditional love and acceptance. Many of us need a non-judgmental environment around us, and pets provide that to us.
If you are undergoing some emotional or physical health issues, talk with your doctor first and determine if it is okay to adopt a pet and care for it. Caring for a pet comes with positive lifestyle changes that lead to mental wellness.
A healthy lifestyle change plays a significant role in easing depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and PTSD. Here are the ways that pets contribute to healthy lifestyle changes.
Lower Stress Levels
With the pandemic and tough economic times present and looming in the future, stress becomes natural for many. Patting a pet is a small gesture but has been known to ease stress and reduce blood pressure. Just patting a furry animal, even watching your fish pets swim in a beautiful aquarium, has been known to reduce stress and help you relax.
Loneliness can be kept at bay with a pet as your companion. Pets are affectionate, loyal, accepting, honest and excellent companions. Having one for a company and playing with one has helped many overcome the feelings of loneliness, which, when felt strongly, can trigger depression and other mental disorders. Many times, talking to pets helps a person to process and heal from their troubling thoughts. Pets are excellent listeners, and they offer the unconditional love need. Besides, coming home to a wagging tail or a purring cat welcoming you is heavenly, bliss and peace.
Meets The Daily Need For Touch
Having physical contacts like a hug, a handshake, or a cuddle with someone you care about like a pet makes you feel better. It is patting or snuggling together with pets, which calms a person, resulting in lowering a quick racing heart.
Pets bring with them social and emotional wellbeing. Research by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that close bonding with your pet , owners were happier with reduced stress and anxiety. When your pet improved self-esteem, like your dog, stares at your face for no apparent reason, you feel their unconditional love for you. You feel valued and appreciated, and it boosts your confidence in yourself.
A Great Sense Of Purpose
Pets offer their owners a sense of purpose. Taking care of their pets gives the owner this positive purpose which could also help with anxiety or depression. Having a pet requires this routine of caring for the animal; it could be feeding, cleaning and exercise. A routine gives purpose and motivation, which can benefit a pet owner’s self-esteem, wellbeing, and mental health. With those three things on the high in someone’s life, there is no doubt that a person’s mental wellness will be great.
Increased Social Interaction
Pets create wonderful opportunities for social interactions. When pet owners go to animal clubs or attend pet shows or visit the park or beaches with their pet, they talk to other like-minded people who share a love for animals. Pets help in making friends more quickly, especially friends who share that interest in pets. Nothing like interacting with like-minded people for great mental wellbeing. For those who have problems interacting with other people or socializing, a pet could help you slowly meet new people, and it makes great conversation starters.
Increased Physical Exercise
According to a one-year study conducted by the Wellness Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, walking overweight do help the animals and their owners lose extra pounds. Researchers found out that dogs offered support in maintaining physical fitness just like a human exercise buddy. However, with a dog, there was a great consistency and zero negative influence.
Therefore, exercising with your pet is a rewarding and fun way to stay fit. You can take your dog for a walk, run or hike, which is a fun way to keep healthy. Adding a daily exercise routine to your life is a positive lifestyle change. Besides, exercises are great for the dog and its owner, but they also deepen the shared bond and keep at bay any behaviour problems that might develop.
Are There Alternative Pets That Promote Mental Wellness?
The positive benefits of pets are not limited to cats and dogs. There are other less common pets and have similar effectiveness in helping with mental wellness. Here are some exciting pets to consider if you are not a fan of cats and dogs.
Reptiles As Pets
These kinds of pets might seem cold, but studies have shown that pets like snakes and lizards can get attached to their owners and recognize the caregivers who handle and feed them. They also need and love being petted, and they raise their necks as an indication. For those allergic to furry pets and find the exotic and unusual beauty of a reptilian companion fascinating, going for a snake, lizard, or any other fascinating creature would be ideal. Just make sure you study as much information as possible about the animal before taking them in as a pet.
Rabbit is another excellent alternative for people allergic to dogs and cats. Rabbits are beautiful creatures and make exceptional pets. They are not as high maintenance as dogs or cats, but they come bearing boundless energy and a fantastic personality. They don’t need a lot of space, making them ideal if you are in a home with minimal area. Owning a bunny rabbit helps reduce stress levels, especially during snuggles or playtimes. A pet promotes the increase of the hormone cortisol and serotonin in the brain.
Birds make lifelong pets since they enjoy very long lifespans. Some birds like parrots can outlive humans. Having a bird like a parrot as a pet means you get to enjoy all the love, minus having to deal with the grief that comes with losing your pet. Birds encourage social interactions and are great companions when you live alone. Talking and teaching tricks to your bird has been known to promote a healthy cognitive function.
Fish tanks are standard in many medical facilities such as dentist’s offices, care homes and many others. Having a fish tank in your home can be great as well. Watching fish swim has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and calm the heart rate. Besides, an aquarium in the house does a lot for your interior décor and your mind. Care for the beautiful fish and watch them swim.
Hamsters are lovely pets not only for school-aged children but also for people of all ages. They are low maintenance and super fun to play with and watch. They can offer a very mind-soothing presence and can be quite interactive with people. For you to provide proper care, make sure you are knowledgeable about the species you are considering. They are beautiful creatures, whether you have a Golden or Syrian hamster. It is fascinating to watch them, which can keep the worries of life away for a while. Such a welcome presence in your life will undoubtedly do many positive things for your mental wellness.
How Do You Find The Perfect Pet For Mental Wellness?
After deciding that you need a pet in your life, get ready to experience a unique and rewarding relationship with a fantastic creature. Getting the right pet will make you feel happier, independent and secure. Choosing a pet that will perfectly fit into your lifestyle is crucial.
In your quest for finding the perfect pet, first, discuss with other members of your household and agree about the qualities you would love in a pet. If you all decide on having a dog, consider the different breeds available and their various personality traits. If you want something that is not furry, consider a bird, a reptile or fish.
Consider other factors like the size of your home, lifestyle, work schedule, and who will be responsible for the animal’s daily caring and if the animal needs constant attention. Do any of your family members suffer from allergies? Because if they do, you might want to reconsider the kind of animal you choose and avoid those that have fur and shed minimally. If you doubt caring for a larger animal, consider getting a small animal first and judge your tolerance and capabilities from there.
If you or a family member happens to suffer from any illness that would require soothing, calmness and peace of mind, consider a trained animal to have as a pet. There are dogs trained to soothe and act as guide dogs for the blind, for example. Consider all these factors as you purpose to improve your mental wellness with the ideal dog.
The majority of pet owners love the joys and mental wellness of having a pet in their lives. Many people are still unaware of the physical and psychological health benefits that come with the ideal pet. Pets have strong attunement to their owner’s emotions and behaviour. Usually, attunement is more potent when a pet and its owner have a great relationship. Pets can instinctively be there for their owners and offer their soothing presence that reduces stress, anxiety, depression and eases loneliness while encouraging healthy exercise and play. Children, adults and seniors can benefit from having pets around because it is an unquestionable source of calmness and relaxation that also brings immense joy.
Reena Goenka is a SAC Registered Counsellor & Supervisor. She is a caring Mother, an understanding counsellor, a healing therapist, a whiz consultant, an expert trainer and a brilliant writer, holding expertise in Psychotherapy treatments, Professional counselling and Clinical supervision.
Reena Goenka has experienced phenomenal client success by employing a unique combination of Transactional Analysis, Gestalt two-chair work, hypnotherapy, visualization, EMDR and talk therapy. Reena helps her clients to understand their distinct core issues and pursue paths of healing. At the same time, she also supervises other counsellors or therapist in this process as well.
Reena works with a variety of concerns. Her Areas of Specialization include:
- Empowering self through Transactional Analysis
- Working with Trauma, abusive, or bad memories
- Working with Childhood hurts and abuses
- Parenting Issues like Conflict management with children and teenagers.
- Marital counselling.
- Pain Management
- Stress management.
- Positive empowerment.