7 Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Pet
Since the pandemic began in 2020, more than 23 million American households, nearly 1 in 5 nationwide, have adopted a pet dog or cat. This recent data was released by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) from a nationally representative poll. This sudden rise of pet adoptions could be attributed to many people feeling lonely and needing companionship during the lockdowns.
It's no secret that taking care of an animal does come with great responsibility. You have to feed it, train it, and in some cases wash and walk it. But pet ownership does come with several mental health benefits. Let's examine how owning a dog, cat, goldfish, or other pet can benefit your state of mind.
They Help Reduce Stress
If you're always under a lot of stress, having a pet around could help alleviate that. Research has shown that our interaction with animals lowers blood pressure and decreases levels of the stress-related hormone called cortisol. There are even some studies that show pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than non-owners.
Enjoying a fun game with a cat, a dog, or any other pet can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine. These are two chemical neurotransmitters that help you to remain calm and become more alert.
Pets Provide Much-Needed Companionship
The recent rise in pet adoptions during the pandemic clearly shows the need for companionship for people, especially those who live alone. Having something around you who depends on you to care for them makes a person feel needed. It could help take your mind off your everyday problems. The affectionate touch of a furry dog or a purring cat could provide you with the much-needed companionship that you need.
Add Structure to your Daily Life
Another benefit of having a pet around is that they add structure to your daily life. Pets, particularly dogs, require a routine of feeding, cleaning, and exercising. This daily routine not only helps your pet remain balanced and calm, it could also do the same for you. Going through the process of taking care of a pet every day helps you to be organized, balanced, and more structured.
They Encourage More Exercise for You
We all know that taking care of a pet requires a lot of work. Dogs, in particular, do require more activity because you have to take them out for walks or play outdoor games with them. This is a great thing for your mental and physical well-being. Regular exercise has always been beneficial for keeping the brain healthy. Going on fun outdoor trips with your dog encourages a fitness plan you truly need.
Pets Improve your Social Interaction
If this pandemic has put a damper on your social skills, use your pet to give them a boost. A lot of dog owners love to interact with each other at the park or while on hikes. If you have a dog, why not take it for a walk in the park as an opportunity to meet new people? You could also potentially benefit your social life when you interact with others at dog training classes. Meeting other dog lovers is not only fun but livens up your social life.
Your Pet Could Help Your Child
If you have a child, your pet could help him. There have been some studies showing the benefits animals bring to children. One study shows that dogs can help children with ADHD focus better in class. Two groups of children diagnosed with ADHD were enrolled by researchers into 12-week group therapy sessions. The researchers found that the kids who read to a therapy dog had better social skills and fewer behavioral problems than the kids who read to some puppets.
For those who have teenagers, there is some interesting research concerning animals benefiting them. A recent study showed that caring for a pet goldfish helps teens better manage their diabetes. Researchers have found teens to be a little more disciplined at checking their blood glucose levels while caring for their fish. Whereas, teens without a pet fish were found to be less disciplined at caring for their condition.
Pets Could Provide Purpose in your Life
Having a pet around gives your life more meaning and purpose. This is especially vital for those dealing with the challenges of getting older. As you age, you start to lose things that occupied most of your time, like employment. You may also see your children grow up and move out of the house. But what could replace those things is your furry feline, scruffy dog, or any other animal you prefer.
Caring for a pet fills the holes in your life that are empty. It has brought pleasure to many people's lives and boosted their optimism. If you're feeling lonely or need something to do, why not adopt a pet? You'll be giving a pet a home and benefiting your mental health.