Any pet owner will tell you that pets are a big responsibility, but well worth it. Pets are fun to play with and good company on lonely days. They always know when something is going on and care their owners. They also require you to create a routine and dedicate time to certain tasks. A frisky cat will not let you lay on the couch all day, and a hungry dog won’t let you skip mealtime.
The Psychological Benefits of Owning a Pet
Just about any type of pet can be good for your mental health. These are some of the psychological benefits of owning a pet:
- Companionship — Loneliness is a common part of mental illness. Many people who suffer from mental disorders feel alone or have trouble socializing, which may seem to intensify the effects of the mental health issues. Loneliness can increase symptoms of depression. A pet helps to provide companionship.
- Unconditional love — Pets are loving without being judgmental. They don’t care if you botched that report at work or if you’re struggling with anxiety. A pet just wants to be cared for and played with. Most pets can also sense when something is wrong, and they will try to comfort you.
- Social skills — Caring for a pet can help to improve your social skills with people. Having a pet can also give you common ground with other pet lovers and help you to make new social connections.
- Outdoor Activity — One of the benefits of owning a dog is that they require regular exercise. They need to go outside frequently, and most like to go for walks— and they can be very persuasive when they want to go! But dogs aren’t the only ones who benefit from these outdoor excursions. Getting outside at least once a day can also improve your health and reduce your risk of depression.
- Entertainment — Pets are entertaining, and they probably make you smile and laugh. Every time you do this, the nerve cells in your brain register happiness. Smiling and laughing regularly helps change negative thought patterns and reduce the risk of depression.
- Stress Reduction — Stress can lead to mental health issues or exacerbate existing issues, including depression. However, petting an animal releases anti-stress chemicals in your brain — which help reduce stress as well as your risk of depression.
- Routine — Caring for a pet requires a daily routine of feeding, walking, cleaning and playing. Owning a pet prompts you to maintain a daily routine, and keeping a routine is good for your mental health.
- Purpose — Having a pet provides you with a sense of purpose in life. You have to feed your dog or be home at a certain time to take him out for a walk. Cats, as well as other animals, also require feeding and care. The responsibility of having a pet that relies on you for its well-being is a source of pride for many pet owners.
- Self-Confidence — Kids who have pets tend to develop a greater sense of self-esteem than those who do not. The same goes for adults. Successfully caring for an animal is a source of pride and can help to build self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Therapy for Mental Health Disorders — Animals are used in pet therapy for people suffering from various mental health conditions. The results are positive. For example, horse grooming reduces symptoms of PTSD in children and teens. Children with attention deficit who have pets are better focused than those without. One study showed a group of adults with Alzheimer’s had improved appetites and were less anxious when they could see a tank of fish.
A Pet Can Improve Your Mental Well-Being
There’s no doubt that pets can improve your quality of life, and animals are often used for therapy in mental health programs to supplement other forms of treatment. Even at home, pets have a significant positive impact on your well-being by offering constant companionship, unconditional love, and a sense of purpose.