How Can Animals Help Our Mental Health?

Most pet owners will be familiar with the joy their animals bring them.

It’s difficult not to smile when you see their happy faces and wagging tails greeting you when you return home.

We know our pets make us happy, but we’re yet to see the full impact of their presence on our mental health.

Currently, researchers and everyday people believe that animals may help our mental health in the following ways: 

Emotional Support

Many people approach businesses like Wellness Wag to obtain Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letters when they learn that animals can be a valuable source of emotional support.

Dogs and cats can offer much-needed love and companionship when you’re going through a difficult time or feeling lonely.

You can’t help but feel better when you gently stroke a dog or cat at your feet. 

Reduced Stress and Anxiety

Whether you own a pet or interact with them often, you may be surprised to learn that interacting with animals can decrease your cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a stress-related hormone.  Another study also found that growing up with a dog was linked to lower levels of childhood anxiety.

If you’re currently experiencing stress and anxiety, try spending time with a dog or cat. You may be surprised by how relaxed and less stressed the interaction can make you feel. 

Reduced Feelings Of Depression

Therapy and medication are generally considered effective ways to combat depression and its symptoms.

In addition to these methods, you may also like to try spending a little more time with dogs and horses.

According to a systematic literature review, dogs and horses contributed to lower levels of depression in survivors of child abuse and military veterans. 

Combat PTSD Symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common mental health condition in people who have experienced traumatic events.

Common symptoms can include agitation, hostility, self-destruction, fear, and anxiety. 

Many people living with PTSD take control of their symptoms with therapy and medication.

However, many also see results with dogs. Service dogs are often prescribed to veterans for this very reason.

As a complementary treatment, dogs can lower their depression, reduce loneliness, improve resilience, and enhance overall psychological well-being. 

Life Satisfaction

Many factors can contribute to whether or not we’re happy in life.

Our circumstances, jobs, families, and health can all play a part.

While we can change some parts of our lives to enjoy more satisfaction, our pets can also lend a hand.

A 2016 study found that pet owners were generally more satisfied with life than people who didn’t have pets.

Dog owners, in particular, scored higher on all well-being factors than cat owners. 

If you don’t currently have a pet and can’t get one, consider spending time with the pets of friends and family. You may then enjoy the same benefits. 

Help Us Meet New People

Many people struggle to socialize and make friends. When we feel isolated and alone, our mental health can suffer.

Animals can give us a reason to be social and get out and about.

We can meet people at dog parks, training groups, and dog-friendly areas.

You can even meet like-minded people at your local pet stores. 

More Exercise

You might not believe that prioritizing your physical health with exercise is linked to your mental health, but it is.

Just one short walk around the block can sometimes be all it takes to get rid of a negative mood and reduce anxiety and depression.

Motivating yourself to exercise when you’re experiencing mental health challenges can be hard, but dogs certainly make it easier.

They need walks and physical activity to maintain excellent physical health, just as we do.

As a result, dog owners walk an average of 22 more minutes per day than people who don’t own dogs.

That 22 minutes per day more might be all it takes to reduce some of your uncomfortable mental health symptoms. 

Adding Structure To Your Day

Pets require a great deal of care every day, including feeding, exercising, and grooming.

Just as we thrive on routine, so do our pets. We tend to take care of their needs at the same time every day, and it becomes their expectation.

When you’ve previously struggled with structure in your life, pets can certainly help with that.

You may feel more grounded and focused when you know you have something to look after and give you daily purpose. 

Cats, dogs, and other animals might only be in our lives for a short time, but they have the potential to make a big impact.

Owning a cat or dog may result in reduced depression, stress, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms.

You might also be more satisfied with life and enjoy much-needed daily emotional support. 

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