Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet
By Ama H.Vanniarachchy
Pets are little bundles of happiness. Their innocence, playfulness and their unconditional love can fill our world with happiness like no other. They can be a great source of comfort, and also a motivation. Modern researchers have confirmed that in many ways pets can help us to live mentally healthier lives.
It was 30 years ago, for the first time in medical history, Psychologist Alan Beck of Purdue University and psychiatrist Aaron Katcher of the University of Pennsylvania conducted a research on how and why pets can affect our mental health. Consequently, they measured what happens to the body when you pet a friendly dog. Here are the results in brief;
• Blood pressure went down
• Heart rate slowed
• Breathing became more regular
• Muscle tension relaxed.
These are signs of reduced stress and traits of a relaxed mind.
Modern studies have discovered further physical evidences of the many number of mental health benefits of having pets.
So what is the enormous magic that is awaiting in those little wet noses and wiggy-waggy tales of our furry friends? Let us find out how they can help us reduce stress and improve our mental health.
To find answers let’s first try to understand why we keep pets. The most common and simple answer is that there is satisfaction; the satisfaction of stroking a dog or a cat causes hormones to be released that makes us relaxed and happy.
Mental health benefits of having a pet
• Helps reduce stress and depression
• Helps socialising
• Helps you battle loneliness
• Supports you as a companion and a guide
• Pets teaches a lot to children
Helps reduce stress and depression
Pets are a great motivator for their owners. Especially when it comes to taking care of physical fitness, pets can be your biggest motivators. This can be beneficial for those suffering from depression. Pets also give you a calming feeling when they are around you. Watching fish in a pond, or watching a cat in a deep nap all curled up will surely calm your mind. Stroking a dogs head and looking into its eyes will do magic when it comes to relaxation. Scientists have revealed that eye contact with your dog and touch is potent triggers of oxytocin and dopamine. Taking care of a pet teaches you kindness, compassion and also gives your day purpose and reward, and a sense of achievement and at the same time making you feel valuable and important.
Taking your pet for a walk or to the vet helps you meet other pet owners and build up new relationships. This will surely expand your social circle. People who have more social relationships and friendships tend to be mentally healthier.
Helps you battle loneliness
Pets are companions. They keep company and also give you a sense of security. Also their little silly things will surely make you entertained throughout the day. For those who living alone, pets are valuable company.
Supports you as a companion and a guide
For people who are suffering from certain disabilities, pets are great supporters. Also for those who are senior citizens, their life stress can be comforted by pets. With an animal in the home, people with Alzheimer's are thought to have fewer anxious outbursts
Pets teaches a lot to children
Children should be taught about love, compassion, caring and sharing at a very early age of their lives. Taking care of a pet such as feeding, bathing and cleaning them, walking them and talking care of a sick pet, helps children learn to be more sensitive, caring and be responsible.
Pets love to play. Playing with a pet is a great way to children to release energy and at the same time to learn co-existence. Fresh air and good circulation from aerobic exercise increases oxygen-filled blood flow to a child's brain, therefore increasing their ability to concentrate. A pet is a great listener, and offers unconditional love and will not criticize a child for having too much energy. This can aid a child's self-confidence.
Children those who are known to have autism, finds it calming to work with animals. It has been studied that when it comes to autism, animals can reduce stereotyped behaviour and increase the desire and ability to connect socially with others.