My inquiry question: How does a pet impact and benefit an individual’s mental health?
What are the benefits of having pets as companions for our mental health?
Oftentimes in life, we find ourselves stressed, overworked and tired. All these essential factors impact our mental health negatively. Pets as companions play a beneficial role in allowing you to de-stress. In other words, having a pet reduces your stress levels. (1) While many of us find ourselves getting in a better mood around animals, we often question why. Research shows playing with pets increases levels of serotonin & dopamine. (1) Additionally, studies show that pet owners have lower blood pressure in stressful situations. (1) Owners spend lots of time interacting with their pets whether that be just sitting with them to playing with them. Simply talking or petting a pet can lower blood pressure and your heart rate. (1) Pets as companions are also a great option to reduce stress in a workplace environment. When coming home from work your pet can reduce work-related stress. (2) Employees who are around pets state that they help reduce their stress and improve employee satisfaction. (2) Research by Purina shows it can also promote happiness & increase collaboration for employees. (1) Your daily routine such as your job getting in the way of your mental health due to stress can gravely affect you in the future. Psychological impacts may include irritability, fatigue, sadness & concentration problems. (3) Therefore, using pets is a great way to lower your risks of problems with your mental health!
The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic left a huge mark on everyone. Individuals experienced loneliness, isolation & boredom. These feelings began to impact many individuals’ mental health leading to a rise in depression & anxiety. Pandemic pets became a great way to help. A total of 3.2m households in the UK acquired a pet during COVID-19. (1) Adoptions of pets have risen globally becoming beneficial support for both the pets and the individuals adopting them. Pandemic pets were good for our mental health. (1) Pets reduced loneliness, provided companionship and provided new pet owners with positive energy. (1) During the pandemic many families experience boredom and loss. A new life helped families cope with the loss of a loved one and gave kids another focus. (1) Many individuals reported that getting a new pet gave them a sense of purpose and a reason to get out of bed during their most difficult times in the pandemic. (5) Pets such as dogs allowed for more social interaction as well. Walking your dog at a distance from others allowed individuals to have short & friendly conversations. (5) Having a pet meant you were never truly alone & were getting a healthy interaction. (5) During mental health crises caused by the pandemic, pets helped distract owners from negative thoughts associated with the pandemic. (5) The human-animal bond can show mental health vulnerability in pet owners. (7) This bond allows for emotional closeness and intimacy, which greatly helped during the pandemic. (7)
Depression & Anxiety
Often times when dealing with a mental illness such as depression & anxiety pets are an option to help you cope. Studies show that pet owners are less likely to experience depression than individuals without pets. (10) People with little to no human social support feel lonely and isolated. Both can worsen depression. By providing companionship & support, a pet decreases those feelings. (10) Pets can also help manage anxiety. (2) Using pets and their routines can help combat anxiety. Routines can be as simple as feeding pets & eating with them at regular hours, taking them out for walks regularly and playing at the end of each day. (9)
Pets can be used as great icebreakers to help you overcome anxiety you may experience from meeting new people. New relationships can combat loneliness. Some suggestions would be going to dog parks or pet-friendly coffee shops. (9) Using a pet to talk to will help release strong and negative emotions. Opening up to a pet is beneficial because you won’t feel any judgement and often times pets will comfort you once realizing you are upset. Pets will know when you need a cuddle, so consider opening up to your pet when you feel upset. (9)