Does your world revolve around your furbaby? If so, you’re not alone. Pets are superheroes. They help improve our mental health and all around make our lives better. Pets of all different sizes help us cope with anxiety, stress, sadness and other emotions that take a toll on our mental health. Whether you have a dog, fish, hamster, lizard, or cat, your pet probably helps you more than you know.
The Best Companions
Even though we live in a world full of people and we can easily send a text to a friend who lives in a different country, many people feel lonely. There are many various reasons people feel disconnected from others. Pets are there for us even when we don’t feel like socializing or are going through a tough time. They give us companionship and the necessary social connections that we need. Loneliness can have negative effects on mental health, making mental illnesses worse. It’s important to have someone or something to connect with.
Love and Affection
There’s nothing like coming home and being greeted by your pet. They act like they haven’t seen you for years and you’re the best and most important person on the entire planet. You can’t help but smile and forget about the troubles you had during the day. Their positivity and love is the perfect distraction from daily stressors. Pets love unconditionally and give affection while asking very little in return.
Those who own dogs walk significantly more than non-dog owners. Exercise is important for both mental and physical health. Being outdoors helps reduce stress and anxiety. Even cats and other pets encourage activity through playtime. Exercise helps us stay physically fit and also is vital for mental well being, controlling stress and anxiety.
Happy Brain Chemicals
Pets help reduce the cortisol levels in the body and raise oxytocin. Cortisol is the stress hormone responsible for the fight or flight response. While cortisol is vital in life-threatening situations, it wreaks havoc on the body and mind as a response to stress. Cortisol can have a negative effect on mental health and exacerbate mental conditions. Petting or cuddling with a cat, dog, or other pet increases oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” and is essential for social bonding and helps combat depressive thoughts and feelings.
Pets improve the quality of life for their owners, by giving them unconditional love and support. The companionship pets offer helps reduce feelings of loneliness, which is important for mental health (read this). Pets like dogs encourage exercise. Exercise is good for the mind and body. Having a pet also has positive effects on the brain’s chemistry, reducing cortisol and increasing oxytocin. There are different pets for every commitment level and lifestyle. Even a pet like a fish has positive mental health benefits and is easier to take care of compared to a dog or a cat, that need lots of time and energy. If you are interested in a pet, head to your local shelter!