How Can Owning a Pet Improve Your Mental Health?
There’s no doubt that the last year has been incredibly challenging for us all. Luckily, many of us have had our furry companions to keep us company to help us through these anxious times. Equally, as we begin to move out of the lockdown and the restrictions start to ease, our pets are still there to help relieve our apprehensions about the world going back to a new type of normal.
Ways Your Pet Can Help Your Mental Health
Caring for your pet can have both physical and psychological benefits to your health:
· Increased exercise – Dog owners tend to walk their dogs every day, which can help you get out into the fresh air and can be a fun way to increase physical activity within your daily routine. Check out our advice on controlling your dog in public places to keep your dog and others safe.
· Companionship – During the pandemic, many of us have felt isolated. Having a pet can offer you a sense of comfort and friendship, especially for an elderly person or someone living alone. Your pet can offer social support, helping to decrease anxiety levels and calm your nerves.
· Meeting New People – Dog owners can become more socialised when walking their dog, even with a simple ‘hello’ to passing strangers! Usually, dog walkers strike up conversations with other owners, and you can get to know the locals around your area. Other types of pet owners can also meet new people, whether it’s at a training class, online groups or within a pet store.
· Adding a Routine to Your Day – Having a pet takes time and effort to cater to their needs, especially as some types of pets require specific diets, environments, and exercise at particular times of the day. This can help you become more focused, increase productivity, and give you a sense of purpose or accomplishment!
· Relieving Anxiety – Comfort and support from your pet can help to reduce anxiety through decreasing those stressful cortisol hormone levels, and increasing levels of oxytocin, the love hormone. Studies show that dogs are great for helping people with autism in a variety of ways, from reducing stress, building bonds, and providing structure to their day.
· Enhancing Confidence – Pets love sitting and listening to their owners’ voice, which allows you to speak openly and honestly without feeling judged. They can help boost your self-confidence when you’re feeling lonely or just want someone to talk to!
Pets and Cardiovascular Health
Studies suggest that there is a relation between pet owners and lowered blood pressure rates, particularly dog owners, compared with non-owners. This is not to say that there is a direct link between having a pet and the risk of heart disease, however, reports show that “pet owners are more likely to be alive one year after discharge from a coronary care unit than non-owners.” This is most likely due to increased fitness levels and better overall health, as dog owners tend to exercise more often, therefore, can recover from cardiovascular disease easier than non-owners.