For years, it has been suspected that there’s a positive link between pet ownership and mental health. Once the theory has been put under the microscope and studied extensively, the suspicions have been confirmed. According to experts, owning pets can help people who are suffering from depression in the following ways:
Lowers Stress Hormones
Having a pet – whether it’s a dog or a cat – can help manage the level of stress in individuals. More specifically, petting and playing with your pet can significantly decrease the level of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the hormone released when in the midst of stressful situations – which simply means that having a pet can be very relaxing. At the same time, it helps increase the production of happy hormones in the body. In fact, it has been shown that a cat’s purr has just the right frequency to encourage relaxation.
Develops Exercise and Healthy Habits
Pets are also beneficial in the adoption of healthy habits such as working out, enjoying the outdoors, waking up early, eating healthy, and other useful daily activities. Owning a pet often encourages owners to go outdoors as a way of exposing their four-legged companions to nature. Having a pet in one’s life also means establishing a routine that encompasses the needs of the pet. For example, waking up early to make sure the pet gets food. The addition of a dog helps the creation of structure to your day and makes you more accountable of your actions.
Improves Sense of Self-worth
The trust and dependence of a pet to its human helps foster a sense of self-worth in owners. This can be attributed to the sense of responsibility a person develops once they know that another living thing looks up to them for love and companionship. In a study conducted by the Miami University and Saint Louis University, it was found that pet ownership can help build self-esteem, decreases loneliness in individuals, helps them become more extroverted, and allows them to be more focused and purposeful in their surroundings.
Encourages Communication and Socialization
Pets are always great conversation starters – especially with people who have the same love for animals. Owning one functions as an excellent gateway to forge new relationships and create new friends. It can be the people you meet at the vet’s office, the people you see in the dog park, or just people you meet while taking your pet out for a walk.
Helps with Recovery from Depression and Other Mental Illnesses
A study conducted by the University of Manchester showed that pets are often regarded as one of the most important sources of support for recovering mental patients. The study, which included individuals diagnosed with severe mental illness, highlighted the help extended by their pets for their personal growth and recovery. Specifically, these pets distracted them from suicidal thoughts, hearing voices, or relapsing. More importantly – having a pet creates a sense of control in their life, allowing them to better handle episodes.
Good for Childhood Development
Children who have pets are also found to be more social and less anxious. Kids who are often shy about meeting with others gain more confidence when accompanied by a pet. The same holds true for autistic children who have pets in their home. Compared to those without, autistic children with pets laugh more, are more willing to socialize, and to compromise with their peers.
Pets are the perfect companions for people who are not yet ready to mingle with their peers but want to slowly expose themselves to social situations. Many pets are used as sounding boards as those undergoing depression treatment in an intensive outpatient program in sugarland would often talk to their pets without fear of being judged or talked about. It fosters a sense of security and having someone who will be there for you at all times.
Some pets can be responsive to their owner’s needs. For example, there are pets who seem capable of detecting when their owners are undergoing depressive or panicked episodes and try to counteract the symptoms through distraction or by simply cuddling with their owners. While some dogs may be trained for this, there are those who seem to do it naturally.
Having a pet is a responsibility – but it is one that comes with great rewards. Also keep in mind that the term “pets” encompasses all types of animals – not just cats and dogs.