In studies conducted, over 95% of owners see their pets as being family members. They bring joy to our lives no matter what our age may be, so naturally they will have a positive impact on our mental health.
1. Reduced stress and anxiety – Our Serotonin and Dopamine levels rise after just 5 minutes of playing with and cuddling our pets, further reducing levels of Cortisol, the stress hormone. The sensory act of stroking an animal also lowers blood pressure.
2. Having a purpose – Just like with children, our pets rely on us for their every need. They need to be fed and watered, bathed, cleaned out, played with, and walked, despite how we may be feeling in ourselves. When in the midst of a dip in my mental-health, all I want to do is sleep, to isolate myself, but I know that isn’t possible with having 7 animals.
As difficult as it may be for me to get myself up and out of bed at the time, in the long-run it will have a positive impact on my mood. Plus, it is totally worth the fight to look at adorable faces like this little one.
3. Prevent loneliness – My social circle is limited, as a result of my mental health issues. With borderline personality disorder comes rapid mood fluctuations, and my issues with anxiety have developed into agoraphobia, thus making it difficult for me to leave my home and socialise. Sadly, you can only turn down invitations so many times before people stop asking, only isolating you further.
However, this is where our pets bridge the gap. A benefit to having hedgehogs is that they’re nocturnal, meaning that I have them to keep me company when my two dogs are asleep. And you would be surprised by how comforting they can be, regardless of their quills.
4. Improved fitness – As previously mentioned, many pets require enrichment, meaning that you are getting exercise in the process. Whether it be taking your dog on a long walk along the canal, or throwing a ball around the garden, you are moving, and consequently getting those endorphins going in the process.
5. Less fearful – For many, dogs are also ‘guard dogs’, protecting both their homes and them/their family, and enabling them to sleep better at night, thus having a positive impact on your mental health.
For those of us struggling with anxiety, having a dog can also instill greater confidence in us to leave our homes. I know that when my agoraphobia was at its worst, taking my then only dog, Max, out for walks with a friend enabled me to expand my comfort zone. Seeing him so happy made me happy in the process, while I was partly distracted from my surroundings by having to focus on him, keeping him safe from the roads and passing dogs.
Do you have any pets? How do they help you?