Pets add a loving and caring dimension to people’s everyday lives. They provide companionship and friendship to their owners. They also display never ending loyalty to their humans.
Scientific studies have proven that pets are important in helping people maintain good mental health. Learn how owning a pet can improve mental health and help you adapt to or overcome acute or chronic psychological conditions.
How to Improve Mental Health
As scientists continue to study the correlation between owning a pet and mental health, they now confidently assert that ownership of a cat, dog, or other pet helps reduce the symptoms and severity of both acute and chronic depression. People who have a pet in their households experience fewer episodes of depression and symptoms that are not as severe or as enduring as those that arise when there is no pet in the home.
A cat, dog, or other animal companion helps people with this condition feel calmer throughout the day. Pet owners also feel like they are not alone and that they receive unconditional love and attention from their animal. This interaction between themselves and their pet reduces the severity of their depression and helps them avoid episodes that might otherwise put them at risk of suicidal behavior, isolation, and low mood.
This same study, published recently by Psychology Today, shows a correlation between owning a pet and the alleviation or easing of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in some patients. People who are afflicted with PTSD commonly experience less severe symptoms of their mental health condition when they have a pet in their homes.
In particular, dogs have demonstrated a greater capability of responding to and assisting people with PTSD. The way a dog can improve mental health has not gone unnoticed with the Veterans Administration in the U.S. now subsidizing and encouraging the use of service dogs for veterans who suffer from this mental health condition.
Service dogs are trained to detect veterans’ PTSD symptoms and to provide relief by sitting or lying close to the sufferer. This constant presence helps the veteran feel calm and remain in control of his or her emotions.
Finally, studies have shown that veterans who have service dogs with them need to rely less on conventional treatment like antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication. They also may not need to attend group or individual counseling sessions as often because they feel calmer and more in control of themselves with their service dogs with them.
Healing from Grief
The grief process after losing a loved one can be intense and overwhelming. People of all ages may find it difficult to go on with life and rebuild a new sense of normal after experiencing the death of a close friend or relative. In particular, senior citizens may decline both physically and mentally after they lose a spouse, child, or other close family member.
Owning a pet can be key in helping people recover faster and better after a traumatic loss. Studies have proven that having a cat or dog in the home can boost a person’s mental health and help that person focus on the present and future. They may feel like they have a sense of purpose because they have a pet to take care of each day.
They also feel like they have something close to them that loves them and needs their attention. The simple act of a dog or cat sitting close to them on the sofa can help people be more open to expressing love and sympathy that otherwise might be suppressed because of a loved one’s passing.
Senior citizens are encouraged to get a pet if possible after they experience the death of a close relative or friend. Many senior citizen care facilities are now also bringing animal companions in to improve mental health. This will help people who are there alone or have recently lost a spouse or loved one heal from their grief faster.
Pets are also helpful in relieving everyday stress. When people come home from a busy day at work or school, they may find it difficult to put the day’s events behind them and relax. A pet makes it easier to unwind after a hectic day. As such, scientists encourage people who are stressed out and in need of a daily respite to add a cat, dog, or other animal to their homes.
When people come home to a pet, they may take instant satisfaction in their fur companion waiting for them eagerly at the door. The fact that their animal is happy to see them and ready to shower them with love could make it easier for people to unwind and forget about the day’s harried pace.
Moreover, pets especially dogs need to be walked and taken out for exercise. This daily exercise can be key to improve mental health and also boosting a person’s physical health. Scientific studies continue to show that daily exercise and good mental health are closely tied to each other.
When you have a pet in the home, you can enjoy good mental and physical health. You also find it easier to let go of stress and unwind after even the most challenging of days at work or school.
Finally, owning a pet can boost a person’s mental health by compelling the owner to become more responsible. For example, parents who want to boost their children’s mental well-being while also teaching responsibility may add a cat or a dog to the household.
Children learn how to take care of something that depends on them while also gaining confidence in their capabilities. They may become more assertive and be ready to take the lead in social settings thanks to having a pet at home for which to care.
The psychological benefits of owning a pet cannot be understated according to many scientific studies. Having pets at home can improve mental health by giving you a companion. People who want to overcome symptoms of depression, PTSD, grief, and stress may find it easier when they add a pet to their families.