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7 Ways Pets Can Help Improve Mental Health

If you’ve never owned a pet in your life, chances are you are looking more at the cons rather than the pros of owning a pet. An animal in the home requires a level of commitment, depending on the pet in question. 

You have to clean after your pet and clean your house more often than if it was animal-free. There are feeding times to consider, vet appointments, possible middle-of-the-night wake-up calls to cuddle (that’s the cat’s doing), and mandatory walks outside for the dogs.

Owning a pet comes with a significant amount of responsibility, but you may not realize how much better your mental health will be if you decide to house a pet. Animals have a powerful and effortless way of making us feel better, and the following are the top seven ways they can help improve our mental health.

Guinea pigs
Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Pets lower stress, ease anxiety and curb depression.

More than ever, animal therapy proves to be a unique way for people to heal from trauma. Horses are used for children and adults to help them process their issues, and dogs in hospitals are always popular because they put a smile on patients’ faces.

The research proves the power animals have on mental health as well. One study showed that petting a dog or a cat is enough to lower stress and even reduce blood pressure. Without even trying, animals teach us a great deal about stillness. These days, many of us believe that being busy and having an always wandering mind is normal.

With an animal in the house, you will be reminded that stillness is the most critical thing you can do to remain in the moment no matter how challenging life may be and, in the process, ease anxiety and curb the risk of depression. 

Cat on table
Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Pets are always there for you.

You may often feel isolated from society and abandoned by the people you love, but with a pet in the house, you can always experience the reassurance that there is someone there for you.  

Moreover, pets are always honest, and they don’t have a mean bone in their body. They are loyal to you, especially if you treat them well. They are also consistent and forgetful, which is great because, unlike humans, they quickly forget if we were angry five minutes ago. When you are immersed in these qualities daily, you will feel less lonely.

Happy dog
Photo by Sam Manns on Unsplash

Pets keep you fit.

Alright, so you might not want to take your pet iguana on a walk or your bird, but your fitness level is sure to improve with a dog. Dogs need regular exercise. Ideally, dogs should have at least two good walks a day, especially if you expect them to do their business outside of the home.

Since dogs can’t take themselves out, you are automatically increasing your daily steps and, in the process, lowering your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Moreover, daily walks outside are critical to our indoor generation. According to research, we need at least two hours a week in nature to experience its full benefits, and with your dog’s daily walks, you are sure to reap these benefits and improve your mental health significantly.

Outside walks are also an excuse to play and unwind. You can invest in puppy toys to use in parks with your dog and forget about your life’s stresses for a while. 

Pet rabbit
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Pets remind us of the beauty of the human touch.

So much has been replaced by technology that sometimes we forget that things like the human touch can never be replaced. Even if we seek human touch, we may not find it because we feel isolated from the world.

With a pet in the house, fulfilling this need is never a problem. Pets give us multiple daily opportunities to cuddle, pat, and if you own a big dog, even experience one of the best ways to experience touch — the hug. 

cat on dresser
Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

Pets give us stability.

When we go through mental issues such as anxiety and depression, it can be hard to stick to a solid routine. Moreover, with so many of us leading a remote life by working from home, particularly during this pandemic, sticking to a routine may be challenging.

A pet can give us stability and a certain level of certainty in our day when everything else feels uncertain. This is critical and highly beneficial when our mental health isn’t at its best. Dogs especially can help us stick to a routine because they require walks at certain hours. In having a routine in place, we can push ourselves to maintain a sense of normality.

pet mouse
Photo by Kong Jun on Unsplash

Pets give us a reason to get out of bed.

When life hits you hard, you can find it incredibly difficult to do anything, and staying in bed all day becomes the only thing that makes sense to you. Sadly, the bed is not the place to change your life, find inspiration, or find a reason to live. 

Having a pet at home can help you steer clear of such scenarios. With a pet, you have a purpose in your life. Your job may not be ideal at the moment, and your personal life may be falling apart, and while these are challenging situations, having to take care of your pet gives you a reason to get up every morning and tackle the day so you can turn your life around.  

Cat and dog
Photo by sarandy westfall on Unsplash

Pets invite interaction with others.

Even if you are the most socially awkward person out there, your pet is likely to get you to interact with other people. A simple walk outside with your dog is an easy way of sparking up a conversation with another dog owner. You could have day-long conversations about your cat’s antics, and even if you have an iguana for a pet, someone out there will surely want to know what it’s like to be an iguana parent.

Of course, there are more powerful reasons why owning a pet can benefit your mental health. So if you are ready for the commitment, the cuddles, and the conversations, why not give yourself the ultimate present and become the parent of a furry animal?

Featured Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash