It can be tough for our mental health living in this fast-paced, digitally saturated world. Instead of technological advances like the internet, smartphones, and social media making us feel more connected, the opposite happened. We feel more and more isolated from other people.
As pointed out in the eye-opening film, The Social Dilemma, rates of teen and pre-teen suicide and self-harm increased as people became more reliant on social media platforms for entertainment, news, and even as a barometer for self-worth. We measure ourselves based on the standards we see on the internet.
Healthcare professionals all over the world are deeply concerned with the rising mental health problems younger generations are facing. Government leaders are also eager to address this issue. Countries like Luxembourg and Germany offer extensive mental healthcare services that are affordable.
Considering those above-mentioned, mental health professionals and researchers agree that one way to help patients deal with their mental health concerns is through a furry friend with a wet nose or a wagging tail. Having a pet comes with a lot of benefits, including improving one’s mental health status.
The Pet Effect
Also known as the human-animal bond, the pet effect means a symbiotic relationship between animals and humans, resulting in a positive effect on the well-being and health of both. Based on a survey, 74 percent of pet owners attest to their improved mental health condition upon having a pet.
Having positive human-animal interaction results in changes in physiological variables, including reduced stress and increased oxytocin levels. So, rather than checking your phone for any social media updates, why not play with your kitty or take your dog on a walk?
Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet
Perhaps these words “visit your local animal shelter” should appear more often on a physician’s prescription pad. There are a lot of benefits that come with being a pet owner. Whether it is a furry friend or a scaly reptile, pets help reduce chronic pains, depression, and even allergies.
Here are some known mental health benefits that come with owning a pet.
Pets usually are calm and cool. Such demeanor of pets is said to have a relaxing effect on their owners. People always encounter stress in their everyday lives, especially now with all the lockdowns and social distancing brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prolonged exposure to stress can significantly affect one’s overall health. It can cause insomnia, mood swings, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems. But with just petting an animal, stress could go away as your body increases its dopamine production, making you calmer and happier.
Depression is an offshoot of stress. People who are lonely and isolated often feel depressed. To combat depression, mental health professionals also recommend having a pet alongside dialectical behavior therapy or DBT. Pets can make us feel less alone and loved, even just by their presence.
Furthermore, the attention and care that pets need, such as daily feeding and regular veterinarian appointments foster sense of purpose for anyone who feels unimportant.
Pets are also receptive to the mood of their human parents. They often know if you are feeling sad and lonely thus giving out extra cuddles. Even cats who are usually aloof can provide comfort for whatever negative emotion you are feeling.
According to Carl Rogers’ theory, unconditional positive regard is necessary for human development. We need acceptance for who we truly are, no ifs and buts. Unlike human peers, pets do not bear grudges, do not judge us for our standards, and they accept us at face value.
Such a display of unconditional love helps boost the self-esteem of pet owners. A lot of pet owners attest that their pets even serve as their closest confidants and friend with whom they can share their feelings and thoughts without being judged.
Taking care of a pet gives you a renewed sense of purpose and meaning. You get up every day and try your best on everything, especially work, so that you can provide the best for your pet.
Our pet’s reliance upon us can serve as a nudge that we also need to look after ourselves to be able to take care of them properly. Having a pet gives our lives structure as we need to schedule everything from playing time, feeding, and cleaning.
Improve Social Skills
Admittedly, most of us are shy about approaching people and making new friends. Pets however serve as an awesome facilitator in improving our social skills.
When you take your dog for a walk, chances are some dog owners, kids, or just anyone would ask about your pet. Such instances open up opportunities to expand our social network.
Taking care of a pet is not an easy task. It requires a lot of patience and commitment to raising an animal as part of your family. Not only will you have to invest financially to take care of your pet, but you will also have to invest emotionally, whether you like it or not.