Why Owning Pets Is Great for Your Mental Health

We can turn to our pets for joy, comfort, understanding, support, and unconditional love in good times and in bad

Happy young woman with her pet dog | pets are good for your mental health
Photo by Manuel Meza on Unsplash

In case you’ve been struggling with mental health issues lately, know that you’re not alone. During the last few years, amidst the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic, many teens and adults have gone through a decline in their mental wellbeing. And according to an article by the Mayo Clinic Institute, symptoms of anxiety and depression among people have increased manifold post 2020.

Not coincidentally, public interest in pet adoption and ownership has also increased during the pandemic. The bonds between animals and people are strong, and the positive correlation between pets and our mental health is undeniable. Beyond the apparent qualities that draw us to our animal friends, many studies agree that having a pet can alleviate depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder symptoms and improve our overall mental wellness.

For this reason, we have pulled together three important mental health benefits that come along with owning a pet to help you decide if adopting a dog or a cat in these challenging times can help you improve your overall mental health and wellbeing.

Top 3 Mental Health Benefits of Owning Pets

1. Taking Care of a Pet Can Help You Develop Positive Habits and Mindset

Quite often, people’s mental health influences their ability to take care of themselves. For instance, a person suffering from depression may find it quite challenging to gather the energy to go for a hike, prepare healthy meals, and even do the laundry. Despite wanting to exercise and go hiking because they know hiking is good for their health, depressed people’s minds work against them. And one of the biggest reasons pets are so effective in strengthening our minds is because they push the focus away from ourselves.

When you have a cat or a dog, you feel a certain level of responsibility towards them, so you’ll take them to the nearest park even on days you don’t feel like wanting to. Likewise, you might not feel like getting out of your bed in the morning, but you’ll do it if it means feeding your dog, for example. Also, you’ll have to visit your local veterinarian from time to time, so if you were wondering how does pet insurance work and whether it’s a good investment, you should know that a solid coverage plan will take good care of both your pet and your pocket in times of trouble.

All in all, pets help people develop caring and healthy routines that give their bodies the benefits of regular meals and exercise. Pets will push you into the world and force you to interact with nature in a very productive manner. No matter how anxious or depressed you are, if you’re a pet owner, you need to wake up, get out of bed, feed, socialize, exercise, and take good care of your pet and yourself.

2. Pets May Boost Your Self-Esteem

Pet parents who struggle with mental health issues report that their caring relationships with their pet companions have increased their sense of self-worth, confidence, and identity. Undoubtedly, the unconditional love that people feel for their pets and vice-versa can do wonders on self-consciousness and self-esteem.

In effect, for many people, the connection they form with their pets may be more deeply valued than the connections and relationships they share with other people. Our four-legged companions accept and love us unconditionally for who we are and stick with us through our highs and lows. In addition, learning how to train our pets and the need to make decisions on their behalf can contribute to higher levels of care and self-worth.

3. They Can Help You Deal With Stress Better

Having a pet can help overcome anxiety, depression, loneliness, and above all—stress. The everyday interaction with a friendly pet can reduce stress levels, which can affect how you cope during difficult or high-pressure life situations. There is even proof that being around your beloved pet can lower your blood pressure levels, cholesterol, and risk of heart diseases.

Even more, in one experiment conducted in the School of Medicine for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University, people had their stress levels measured with therapy dogs before and after being subjected to a highly stressful situation. The result? Participants in the study recorded having less anxiety and stress after interacting with therapy dogs, suggesting that close interaction with your beloved pet can have a significant de-stressing effect.

Related article » How Mindfulness Helps Reduce Stress

Before You Go…

Owing pets can bring immense enjoyment and fulfillment to your lives. The benefits of owning pets are many—both physically and, perhaps more importantly, mentally. If you are still undecided about bringing home a pet, here are some additional resources that you might help you make up your mind.

  • Perhaps you can’t make up your mind about which pet would be appropriate. This article lists a few pointers that may help you decide » Pets: Friends with benefits
  • Owning a dog is healthy, therapeutic and de-stressing. Here is an article that offers tips to build a wonderful relationship with your dog by following three principles of dog parenting » Before you bring home the canine
  • There are several benefits of sleeping with your dog or cat; but before you try sleeping with your pet, understand the risks listed in this article » Should you be sleeping with your dog or cat?

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