(GoHealthier.com) – Pets enrich our lives in so many ways. From the faithful companions to the cuddly tricksters, our furry friends can help raise us up when times get tough. Most pets love their people unconditionally, breaking past emotional barriers and helping to buffer life’s various blows. Here are five ways they can improve our mental health.
Pets can lift their owners’ moods, add purpose to their lives and reduce social isolation. Some evidence shows they may also reduce the symptoms of PTSD in veterans and other survivors of trauma, and they could help improve emotional development in children. Let’s explore each of these important contributions pets make to our mental health in the article below.
Check Out These 5 Ways Pets Contribute to Our Mental Health.
1. They Lift Their People’s Moods
Pets have a way of making even a terrible day a little brighter. Playing a round of fetch with the family dog or giving a purring cat scratches behind the ears can do wonders for a person’s mood. Researchers in China who surveyed 340 older adults found those who regularly engaged with pets suffered from less depression. Animals can be incredible companions, and sometimes a kind ear is exactly what makes the world okay again — even if the confidante doesn’t exactly speak the same language.
2. They Add Daily Purpose
It feels good to be needed, and pets depend on their owners for a lot while adding structure and purpose to each day. A study on people with borderline personality disorder showed pets gave participants a sense of meaning in their daily lives. Research on depressed seniors showed having a pet significantly reduced the likelihood of suicide.
3. They Reduce Social Isolation
Pets make great companions, but they can also help bring lonely individuals together. Animals are incredible ice-breakers; people who frequent dog parks often socialize alongside their pets. One group of researchers interviewed 14 older pet owners living in community settings, asking how having a pet influenced their lives. Many of the participants said their pets gave them a sense of social inclusion, helping them to feel less lonely and more emotionally resilient.
4. Animals Can Reduce PTSD Symptoms
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, up to 8% of the population has or will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during their lifetime. Tests measuring cortisol levels in veterans’ saliva samples show having service dogs reduces anxiety levels associated with PTSD. Other research has found the presence of these animals may reduce nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, and other PTSD symptoms.
5. Pets Help Children’s Emotional Development
Children aren’t born understanding empathy or having any emotional attachments beyond their immediate caregivers. They must learn how to interact, how to show compassion and when to trust. People raised around animals are more apt to make emotional connections with them. In turn, children who learn to trust family pets tend to seek them out for comfort and affection; they also show higher levels of overall compassion and empathy.
Pets bring enrichment and companionship to their people’s lives, some even serving as proxies for siblings and children. Of all the benefits they bring to the table, their effects on mental health are likely among the most important. In some cases, having a pet might even save a person’s life.
~Here’s to a Healthier Life!
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