Just in case you need any more reason to get a pet for the home – then you’ve come to the right place.
A wide body of scientific study has revealed and can prove that pets indeed boost mental health. Many psychiatrists recommend getting pets to their patients as part of their therapy.
If you or anyone you know are suffering from mental health issues, the next best thing to referring them to a good doctor, is probably getting them a pet.
Here are 6 ways pets boost mental health:
1. Pets love and accept you unconditionally
As far as we know, unless you speak animal language, pets don’t have critiques, opinions, or verdicts. A recent study was done on 37 nursing home residents who ranked high on the loneliness scale and who were interested in getting weekly visits from pooches. Half of the 37 residents spend some quiet alone time with the dogs, and the other half shared the dog with other residents.
While both groups said they definitely felt less lonely after the visit, but the decrease was more significant among those who had the dogs all to themselves. Their ability to show us unconditional acceptance and love make them the perfect companion for those suffering with mental health issues.
2. Pets offer a soothing presence
Studies suggest that the mindless act of watching fish swimming around in a tank significantly lowers blood pressure and muscle tension among people who are about to go through oral surgery – which is probably why every dentist’s office has a fish tank!
Further research work also show that pet owners relatively have lower blood pressures and heart rates while performing stressful tasks. People recovering from heart attacks also recuperate faster and live longer with a pet at home, suggesting that their mere presence have wonderful overall health benefits.
3. Pets change our behavior
Let’s take a typical scenario: You’ve had the crappiest day at work and you are this close to throwing a tantrum. You come home eyebrows knitted together and ready to throw some things around, but then your Golden Retriever walks up to you wagging his tail and smiling from ear to ear. She licks your face and you smile. Just like that, she has already altered your behavior.
4. Pets promote touch
The power of healing touch is undisputed. Research shows that a 45-minute massage can bring down stress levels and boost your immune system. Hugging increases our body’s oxytocin levels, a hormone that reduces stress, resulting to lowered blood pressure and heart rate.
A University of Virginia conducted a study that found holding hands can decrease stress-related activities in the emotional center of our brains – the hypothalamus. Touch actually stops certain regions of our brains from responding to perceived threats. It shouldn’t be surprising then, that stroking our furry friends can give you all the benefits above.
5. Pets give much needed distraction
Sometimes we just need something to take us out of the warzone that is in our mind and drift to another reality. Pets do exactly that, probably more than riveting books and movies, by taking us to a world that only involves water, food, affection, and maybe poop too. Many people who struggle from mental health issues found that distraction is an incredibly effective therapy for the times you hit your lowest points.
6. Pets help us become responsible
Pets demand responsibility, and responsibility – according to one research on depression – boosts mental health. Psychologists have found that taking ownership of a task or applying skills to a certain job builds self-esteem. When we succeed (i.e., your pet survives until the following day) – this reinforces thoughts that we are capable of caring for other living beings as well as ourselves.
Head over to this article by Psych Central for more information on how pets positively affect people with mental health issues.