If you have or have ever had a pet in your home, you probably know how quickly these animal companions are inducted into the family circle. There is overwhelming evidence supporting the benefits of pet companionship for mental, psychosocial and even physical health.
For instance, one study found that 74% of people who owned pets reported vast improvements in their mental health as a direct result of this companionship. Then, 75% of pet owners reported noticing a similar improvement in the lives of friends and families because of pet companionship.
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In our article today we will be examining some of the most profound effects that pets have on mental health and the quality of life in general.
1) Pets improve mental health
This is why pet therapy has become a recognized form of treatment in a wide variety of situations. Pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, is a common treatment in centers for the elderly as well as hospital wards treating cancer and stroke patients. The mental health community extolls animal companionship as a healthy way to counteract bouts of anxiety or depression.¬† Special animals are trained to offer intuitive care to people suffering from feelings of isolation or loneliness.
But, even outside of therapy centers and hospital wards, animal companions and especially canine companions are great to have in your life for many reasons. First of all, dogs are noble and admirable friends who will lavish you with love and loyalty unparalleled in the human realm. They will also reassure you in times when you might be stressed and despondent.
There have even been clinical studies showing human-canine interaction increases the levels oxytocin in the brain, the same chemicals released when feeling in love.
Then, there is nothing as heart-warming as entering your home after a rotten day at work or study and being greeted by an enthusiastic pet who is just happy to see you.
2) Stress Relieving Benefits
Just owning a pet can reduce a lot of the depression, stress, anxiety and loneliness that is a huge part of life. Stress levels are greatly reduced when in the company of a friendly pet and this can make coping in times of crisis and emotional upheaval that much easier. Studies suggest that having a pet may even improve heart health by reducing blood pressure and the buildup of bad cholesterol.
One specific experiment aimed to gauge the effect of an animal companion on the stress response. Volunteer test subjects had their stress indicators measured while in the company of an animal companion. This was done before and after being exposed to an especially stressing situation the studies showed that the company of familiar therapy dogs can have a major destressing effect and lower the physiological symptoms of stress and anxiety.
3) There are Physical and Social Benefits to Pets
Whether you like dogs, cats, iguanas or Betta fish, the act of nurturing and caring for another life carries other physical and social benefits. Owning a dog is a great way to get out of the house and get some fresh air and sunlight.
It is easy to ignore that essential daily walk through the park for good health, but impossible to ignore those big doggy eyes and whimpering at the door.
The responsibility of owning a dog makes people more sociable and outgoing according to some studies. The evidence suggests that having a dog increases the opportunities for getting outside and leads to more social engagements with neighbors.
4) Pets remind you to take care of yourself
Poor mental health and the battle with emotional disbalance can sap your motivation for self-care. But, you may find that introducing a pet into your life can restore a measure of self-worth and return to you a sense of meaning and purpose.
The big reason for this is that a pet needs you and depends on your for its very life. This can awaken the need to take good care of yourself so as to better take care of this life in your charge.
It all begins by the introductions of new and fun activities in your routine that add structure and good health to mental process. This includes feeding your pet, enjoying the special benefits of their company, taking care of their homes (litter boxes, fish tanks, terrariums, etc.), walking and other activities must be done regularly. The satisfaction of enjoying a happy pet as a reward for your actions can be beneficial to the sense of self.
5) Expressing yourself to a pet is easy
Why is it so easy to open up and express ourselves to our pets about things we find difficult to communicate to other people? Pets are the best confidants because they will never betray your trust or reveal your innermost struggles with anyone else. Pets can provide an air of confidence that allows you to remove barriers and explore your innermost worries, fears and concerns.
Sometimes just putting things into words and articulating aloud can be very reassuring. Studies have shown that men in particular will freely open up and discuss things with their dogs they will never broach with other people. Why? Probably because no matter what you said it would never change the dogs opinions, affections or loyalty and you will never have to hear the unwanted commentary.
Curiously, adults will tend to speak to pets in the same tone thy will use to speak to babies and the people they care for intimately, shows that the brain automatically feels more at ease and comfortable around animals.