As many of us are finally starting to realise that our mental state is just as important as physical wellbeing, we’re looking for ways to improve our overall mental health.
Of course, the best course of action is to book an appointment with your doctor if you’re suffering with mental health issues. Nevertheless, there are things we can do ourselves that can also go a long way to helping improve the situation.
Some of the more obvious things include building a sense of belonging by being part of social groups, exercising more, eating well, and practicing meditation and mindfulness. However, we can also look to pets to help alleviate mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression. In fact, a 2011 survey found that 87% of cat owners felt that their cuddly friend had a positive impact on their mental health.
How do pets improve mental health?
There are a wide range of reasons why pets are known to help people suffering from mental health issues. Of course, pets are adorable, and this tends to make us feel happier in general, but it goes much deeper than this.
Pets of all kinds are great companions for humans. Having a pet around the home provides company, especially for people who live alone. This can help to alleviate the feeling of loneliness, reduce symptoms of depression, ease anxiety, and provide a sense of calm in the home.
This kind of companionship has shown benefits for all kinds of people, including elderly people who spend a lot of time alone, and can even help children to develop kindness and responsibility through their relationship with a pet.
Mindfulness is the act of connecting with the current moment. This simple practice can help us to stop getting caught up in our thoughts, leading us back to a more relaxed present. Typical mindful techniques include focusing on breathing, listening to specific sounds, and so on.
Pets that can be petted can really help with the mindfulness process. The act of repeatedly stroking a pet provides sensory mindfulness in the form of touch, helping to reduce stress.
In fact, simply being around a beloved pet can bring the mind back to the present, and it can be a great idea to keep images of them on your phone, computer, and around the house as a regular reminder. Companies such as Vector Pets create amazing hand drawn pet illustrations that are perfect for bringing your pet to life in a fun, creative way in this regard.
Regular exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and general stress. Taking part in exercise tends to make us feel good about ourselves, provides a sense of purpose, and releases endorphins that elevate mood.
Pets such as dogs require regular walking, and this is a great way for owners to get some cardiovascular exercise into their daily routine. Walking, running, and playing fetch are all great ways to reap the benefits. Other animals also enjoy playing indoors, so there’s an opportunity to get active even if you don’t own a dog.
Mental health issues can cause us to lose sight of our daily goals and lead to a lack of structure. It’s not uncommon for people with depression, for example, to feel like they’d rather stay in bed all day. Of course, this tends to lead to further issues, but owning a pet can force us to stick to a routine.
Animals need to be regularly fed and watered, exercised, groomed, and given daily care in other ways. Having this kind of structure can help people to carry on with other aspects of their day that may otherwise have been avoided, and this can have a positive benefit on mental wellbeing.
Owning a pet can be a wonderful way to develop social connections. People tend to enjoy seeing animals which means you may be able to strike up conversations in the street if you’re walking your dog. Likewise, visitors will often enquire about your pets and that means you’ll always have something to talk about. Even online a lot of people share their Animal Portrait photos to great success.
This helps you to feel less isolated and people who can build social connections tend to feel a positive impact on their mental wellbeing.
Owning a pet is a big responsibility and it’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Nevertheless, pets can help to alleviate lots of different mental health issues, or even help to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Companionship, activeness, responsibility, and social connections all lead to reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, and this is something that a relationship with a pet can provide.