April marks both National Stress Awareness month and National Pet Month so in this blog I thought it would be fun to combine these two campaigns by exploring the mental health benefits of keeping a pet!
Whatever your choice of pet may be – dog, cat, rabbit, lizard or tarantula – studies have shown that pet owners are less likely to experience depression than non-pet owners.
74% of pet owners report an improvement in their mental health
Research by the Mental Health Foundation found that 87% of cat owners surveyed believed that their pet had a positive impact on their wellbeing, whilst 76% felt that they could cope better with day to day life thanks to their furry (or scaly) friends.
When struggling with depression its common for motivation and energy levels to be low, and pets can help to give us that extra push as we are forced to get up to feed the cat, clean the rabbit hutch or take the dog out for a walk. These tasks can take our focus away from our problems and also provide some routine to the day which is often lost when we are struggling with our mental wellbeing.
Pets are a great source of companionship, especially for those living on their own as depression and anxiety are closely linked with loneliness. Knowing that there is a pet at home can be a source of comfort and helps us to feel needed and wanted. As the saying goes ‘a dog is a man’s best friend’ and the relationships which people form with animals can be very meaningful.
Part of this relationship with our pets is touch, which is a basic human need. Stroking a pet can be relaxing as it helps to reduce blood pressure and releases calming serotonin and dopamine.
Dogs are particularly beneficial for our wellbeing as walking them provides us with exercise and fresh air. Exercise helps to reduce depression and anxiety by increasing ‘happy hormones’ such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. Walking the dog also provides the sociable aspect of speaking to other dog owners and is a nice way to meet people.
If you are considering getting a pet in the hopes of improving your mood make sure you give it some serious thought, as having a pet is a big responsibility and not a decision which should be taken lightly.
If having a pet isn’t an option for you it’s still possible to reap the benefits we’ve discussed by volunteering at an animal shelter, or helping others with their pets, explore these links for more information…