Could bringing home a pet be a good anxiety and stress relief strategy for you and your family? When most of us think of adding a new family pet, we first consider the responsibility involved. And some of us never get any further than that because the combined time, energy and money investment seems too steep.
We decide we’re too busy to take care of a pet or that doing so would be too much of a burden. It’s certainly wise to consider whether you have the energy and time to care for a pet before bringing one home. At the same time, it’s possible that having a non-human companion could be well worth the investment of time and resources for you individually and for your family.
Doing so could even be a wise mental health movement. The psychological benefits of having a dog or other pet are well-documented. Wondering how to improve your mental wellbeing? Here are some mental health benefits of owning a pet worth considering.
Pets Can Get You Moving Physically
Many people who have a dog, for instance, are challenged to take consistent walks because their furry friend needs the exercise. But the truth is we also desperately need exercise. Sadly, essential exercise time is often skipped because we feel we don’t have the time.
Having a pet with you while you walk, bicycle or jog can motivate you to get more active. Sometimes it’s easier to see that your pet needs exercise than that you need it. Plus, some people feel guilty for taking the time for themselves to exercise (you shouldn’t). But it can be easier to justify going for that walk when you know your pet requires the movement to stay healthy.
Exercising with a pet is all the more valuable if you don’t have a human companion to walk with. You may live alone, or your friends or significant others may have schedules that don’t make it possible to regularly exercise together. However, your non-human companion is always there, eager and waiting to burn off some energy with you.
Yes, all that extra movement will definitely improve your physical health. But it will also make a significant difference in your mental wellness. Physical exercise helps manage depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. A healthier body always equates to a healthier mind and vice versa.
Those wondering how to deal with depression or anxiety will likely see significant improvement from a consistent exercise regimen. There’s definitely a strong connection between exercising and mental health improvement.
Having a Pet Can Boost Your Mood
Another mental health benefit of having a family pet is they can provide a much-needed mood boost just by spending a little time with them. This, again, can help decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as other mental health disorders.
In her ‘Psychology Today” article entitled The Psychological and Physical Benefits of Having a Pet, Louise B. Miller Ph.D. shares the following:
“Petting, holding, or cuddling an animal increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine in our bodies, which are feel-good, calming brain chemicals. As a result of these positive chemical changes, our feelings of depression and loneliness may be reduced while our self-esteem and happiness may increase.”
Pets Provide Companionship
Many people live by themselves and even for the purest introvert, the loneliness that visits at times can be mentally and emotionally taxing. This is all the truer after the loss of a significant other.
Although not the same as human interactions, the companionship of pets can ease those feelings of loneliness, making for a happier, well-adjusted life. Certain pets, such as dogs, can also provide a sense of safety or having a protector for those who live alone. You will always feel better mentally if you don’t experience regular loneliness.
But pet companionship is not only for those who live alone. Regardless of your family size, pets can provide affection that is meaningful and different from human interactions. That connection can sometimes feel more unconditional than human relationships too. On your worst day, your pet will still be there for you, loving you just as you are. Perhaps that’s what led American humorist Mark Twain to say, “The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.”
Pets Provide Purpose
We all need purpose in our lives. Taking care of and nurturing a pet can be a meaningful experience that helps with feeling purposeful. This can be taken to a new level when you find an animal at a shelter that needs to be adopted. It can be very rewarding to provide a safe, cozy environment for an animal that needs you as much as you need companionship.
Taking care of pets provides purpose for young children who sometimes struggle to feel useful and fulfilled. However, regardless of your age, caring for a pet can make you feel more purposeful and needed.
And once you find ways to make your life more meaningful, there’s a good chance your depressive symptoms will improve some. Often with depression, there’s the feeling of a loss of purpose, and pets can help some with making life feel more like it matters.
Choosing The Best Pet for Your Family Maximizes Mental Health Benefits
Thankfully, the possibilities are nearly endless when choosing which pet is best for you and your family. You get the chance to show your individual interests by how you choose. You can also maximize the mental health benefits by deciding the best scenario for your family.
From fish to hermit crabs, cats, dogs and much more, having a pet is one of the many ways to improve mental health in your family unit, whether you live by yourself, with your significant other or with kids.
Do You Need Some Help with Anxiety and Stress Relief?
Is maintaining good mental health more difficult for you lately? Or, do you feel reasonably mentally healthy but want to find some ways for further improvement? If so, The Relationship Centre can assist you with evidence-based ways to increase your mental wellness.