9 Ways Pets Can Help Mental Health

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Most pet owners consider their pets as part of the family. Having the companionship of a cherished pet can be life-changing for some people.

Pets offer love, acceptance, and emotional support no matter what is going on in your life. Even when you are feeling down, a pet can bring a smile to your face.

Having a pet around can affect your life in a variety of ways. Take a look at the link between pets and mental health.

1. Reduce Stress

At the end of a long stressful day, a pet is always excited to see you. No matter how hectic the day or what you’re going through, a pet can be a true stress reliever.

A pet’s presence has a calming effect on the body. Petting a dog or cat stimulates the production of oxytocin and lowers the production of harmful cortisol.

Even looking at pets can reduce stress. Think of the calming effect of looking at fish in an aquarium.

This calming effect is the reason many doctors and dentists choose to put aquariums in their waiting rooms. It helps to calm the patient before their appointment.

2. Fight Loneliness

People may let you down or leave you behind, but your pet never will. They are there to comfort you on your best and worst day.

Pets are the best listeners, and they don’t complain or judge you. They don’t care if you’re not a perfect person. They only want your love in return.

Many people live alone and may not have family or friends around on a regular basis. This can be a depressing situation and lead to sadness and loneliness.

People who do not have emotional support or companionship are prone to depression. Having a pet can offer some companionship and help you fight these negative feelings.

3. Get Moving

If you’re a dog owner, you know they need lots of activity to stay happy and healthy. This can get you off the couch and exercising with your pet.

Taking your dog for a walk is a great way to clear your mind, get some fresh air, and get some exercise. Even if you don’t feel like moving, a dog can help motivate you to get up and head outside for a walk.

4. Feel Needed

Having a pet can help you feel needed. Caring for another person or a pet offers a sense of purpose.

Caring for others can help with feelings of loneliness or depression. Having a pet to feed, care for, and play with is good for your mental and physical health.

5. Build Healthy Habits

Pets love routine and need to be on a regular schedule. As a result, they give many people a reason to get up and start their day and their routine.

Pets have the need for physical activity, and this can get you walking, running, or hiking in the outdoors. Caring for a pet reminds you to take care of yourself.

Your physical and mental health are connected. Loving and caring for your pet helps you build healthy habits and routines.

6. Humor and Fun

One of the best things about having a pet is the fun they bring to your life. Your pet doesn’t have to try to make you laugh.

Pets are funny. Playing with your pet is fun and can be a great stress reliever.

Laughter decreases stress hormones and releases feel-good endorphins. So the more fun you have with your pet, the better the health benefits.

7. Hope

Interacting with a pet leads to a sense of purpose and wellbeing. Caring for a pet makes you feel more hopeful and optimistic about life.

Hope is a critical element in healing disappointments and recovering from illness or addiction. It’s what keeps us going and moving forward. 

8. Improve Social Skills

Having a pet can help your social life. If you aren’t comfortable meeting new people, a pet can help you break the ice.

People love pets and will approach you to pet or ask about them. In fact, a dog is a social magnet.

Take your dog to the dog park or for a walk around the block on a regular basis. It will surprise you to see how many people you’ll meet.

Look for events for dog lovers in your community to meet other dog lovers. You and your pet will enjoy it.

9. Unconditional Love

Pets offer unconditional love. No matter who you are or what mistakes you may have made, your pet doesn’t care.

They just want your companionship in return. Unconditional love can help reduce depression, reduce stress and anxiety, accelerate healing, and improve immunity.

When we care for an animal, we develop compassion and a sense of caring for someone other than ourselves. You may not have realized how powerful those wet noses, belly rubs, and snuggles are, but they are healing forces for your body and mind.

Pets and Mental Health

It’s true that pets require our time and energy, but you get back so much more than you give. There’s nothing better than walking in the door at the end of the day to a pet that’s super excited to see you.

Their bright eyes and wagging tails can brighten up the darkest day. They do require a serious commitment, so make sure you have the time and resources to care for a pet before taking on the responsibility. 

If you have a pet or plan to get one, remember to take the time to snuggle and play with them. There’s a strong link between pets and mental health, so the time you spend with your pet is good for you in so many ways.

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