Mental Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

Everybody deserves a companion and friendship. In some cases – many, in fact – there is a tremendous struggle to find another human being to connect and bond with. Not all of us are raised in happy households. At the same time, many of us find it difficult to cope with single life and luck may not exactly be on our side when it comes to intimate relationships. This is where owning a pet comes in, and why it is an ever-popular practice in homes around the world. 

Today, we will delve deep into the mental health benefits of pet ownership.

Controlling Our Own Reactivity

Perhaps you have seen therapy dogs at a local college for special visits. Or, maybe you noticed someone who looks physically healthy step onto the morning bus downtown with a registered service animal. There is a very real reason for this: Animals do actually work to help us manage our moods and reactivity.

It is ironic to think that, rather than control an animal’s aggression, a significant benefit of owning a pet is that our own self-control and reactivity to certain situations in everyday life improves. This is due to the fact that they help to boost cortisol levels, which are a stress hormone. The direct result of this is an increase in oxytocin that reduces stress levels. 

There is also the sensory aspect of pet interaction to consider. Petting a friendly dog or snuggling with the pet cat is known to drastically reduce blood pressure and encourage a more positive mindset, which is why we see many attempts to connect children with animals from a young age. Almost every individual who suffers from anxiety decides to adopt or purchase a pet for this very reason: Reduced stress and something to focus on that invokes happiness and calm.

A Sense of Belonging and Contribution

Being responsible for the health and wellness of another living thing that constantly provides us with affection and companionship encourages us to become better individuals ourselves. This is achieved through a sense of belonging – in the form of having the pet to interact with and make happy memories – and the sense of contribution, which represents our sheltering, feeding, bathing and caring for another living creature. Never mistake the power of human compassion, however slight; by having something to genuinely care for and protect that is alive and doesn’t simply emit electronic noises is infinitely healthier and more conducive to optimal mental wellness. For those suffering from depression, temptations of suicide or otherwise, feeling needed by something innocent that emits the purest form of love can serve as a lifeline of sorts, encouraging us to keep going and give it our best shot. The pet then rewards that compassion with entertainment, laughter, affection, and comfort, which compels the owner to continue focusing on being there for them. When considering that many individuals have been able to stave off darker mindsets because of a pet that meant the world to them, it all makes sense.

Active Body, Active Mind

Taking your adorable beagle for a stroll or playing fetch can do wonders for not just the mind, but the body as well. We already know that remaining stationary and stagnant can influence a negative mindset and snuff out ambitions. Pet ownership encourages us to get out, introduce our furry friends to people and have all sorts of fun. Plus, pets such as dogs enable for a more active lifestyle: Road trips, hikes, exploring new neighbourhoods, runs, and more are all possible with a canine companion. Being more physically active helps to stimulate the brain, leads to a more extroverted personality, and enables for improved self-esteem as we get to know the world around us in more detail.

Recovery from Mental Illness

One other significant benefit of pet ownership is the incredible support these loving creatures can have on mental illness recovery. Hearing voices struggles with self-worth, and as mentioned prior, suicidal thoughts all can be quelled by focusing our energy on a positive outlet such as playing with a cat, dog or another type of pet. That unconditional support essentially rewires the brain over time to support our own selves, developing a sense of purpose while encouraging recovery from the illness in question. It will not work the same way for everyone, but consider it a helping, fluffy little paw that guides the mind in the right direction. All it takes is continued dedication to move further along that road to recovery. 

There is a good reason that so many pet owners around the world lead healthy, more active, and fulfilling everyday lives: They have rekindled their love with themselves and others around them and have a genuine passion for life. 

If you are struggling and unsure whether a pet is ideal for you, or if you suffer from an allergy that causes stress when attempting to figure out which pet is best suited to your lifestyle and needs, we can help. Reach out to us today to chat with an expert and friendly therapist. We are happy to assist.