There’s nothing nicer than coming home from a long day and being greeted by our furry friends who are so excited to see us. Whilst a quick cuddle can instantly bring a smile to our face, could the mental health benefits of owning a pet be even more significant than we realise?
Pets can be a great source of comfort and companionship for people suffering with depression. They can also have an incredibly calming effect and just stroking, sitting next to or playing with a pet gives owners the chance to relax and calm their minds. Dogs in particular are great because they encourage their owners to get exercise which is hugely beneficial for alleviating the symptoms of depression.
Regardless of whether it’s a cat, dog, hamster, fish, rabbit or bird however, caring for a pet also gives individuals a sense of purpose and achievement which is invaluable for feeling valued and needed.
Walking a dog frequently leads to conversations with other dog owners which helps to stay socially connected and less withdrawn. Those who have more social relationships and friendships tend to be mentally healthier so this is a great excuse to get that puppy you have always longed for.
Pets make great companions and furthermore, they provide their owners with company, security and even someone to share the routine of their day with. Pets can be particularly valuable company for the elderly who are living alone.
It’s not just your pet who benefits when you give them some attention - studies have revealed that rhythmic petting or grooming can be incredibly comforting to owners as well. When you connect with your pet a hormone called oxytocin is released which helps to reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels which is great for reducing stress and anxiety.
Engaging with your pet is a fantastic way to take your mind off the things that are worrying you. When you are fully in the moment you’re not worrying about the past, the future or any of the other issues that cause you to feel anxious, stressed and down. Even if it’s just for a short period of time, taking your dog for an energetic walk, videoing your cat chasing its favourite mouse around the house or cleaning out the hutch, interacting with a pet is a great way of distracting yourself from everyday life.
While we are not advocating pets as a cure for mental illness, the facts are clear, in some cases a pet can really help.
To learn more about different mental illnesses, please visit our Knowledge Centre. If you would like help or advice dealing with mental health issues, please feel free to visit our Depression and Anxiety Treatment Programme Page or contact us today.