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  • Writer's pictureAshten Ntewak

How Pet Ownership PAWsitively Impacts Mental Health

Updated: Jun 3, 2023

Owning a pet brings both responsibilities and benefits, particularly for mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of companionship, as many people experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation. Pets, certainly during quarantine, became a source of comfort and support. The rise in pet adoptions during this time is understandable, as furry family members provided companionship, entertainment, and a reason to start each day.

Here are some other reasons why pets are so important in our lives, especially when it comes to mental health.
Emotional support Pets, such as dogs and cats, provide unconditional love, companionship, and emotional support. They can be an excellent source of comfort and help reduce feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. By just petting or cuddling a furry friend can release oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of love and happiness.
Stress reduction Interacting with pets has been shown to reduce stress levels. Spending time with a pet, playing, or even watching them can lower blood pressure, reduce cortisol (a stress hormone) levels, and promote relaxation. Pets offer a sense of calm and can serve as a distraction from daily worries and stressors.
Increased physical activity Pets, especially dogs, require regular exercise, which encourages their owners to engage in physical activities as well. Taking a dog for walks or playing with them in the park can boost physical fitness, increase cardiovascular health, and promote a more active lifestyle. Regular exercise is known to have positive effects on mental health, such as reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Routine and structure Pets thrive on routine, and their owners often establish daily routines to meet their pets' needs. Having a structured routine can provide a sense of purpose and stability in one's life. It helps individuals develop a sense of responsibility, as they need to ensure their pets are fed, groomed, and receive regular veterinary care. Social connection Pets can serve as social channels, facilitating interactions with other pet owners or individuals with similar interests. Taking a dog to a park or attending pet-related events can create opportunities for socialization and building new friendships. Pets can also act as conversation starters, helping to reduce social anxiety and promote social bonds.

Improved mood and happiness The presence of pets has been linked to increased levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters associated with happiness and well-being. Having a pet around can elevate mood, provide a sense of purpose, and bring joy and laughter into daily life. Emotional regulation Pets can assist in emotional regulation by providing a non-judgmental presence during times of distress. Talking to a pet or simply being in their company can help individuals express emotions, process thoughts, and find comfort during difficult times.

Lastly, it is important to note that while pets can have positive impacts on mental health, they are not a substitute for professional treatment. If you are experiencing severe mental health issues, it is crucial to seek appropriate help from a qualified healthcare professional. Overall, owning a pet can bring immense joy, companionship, and numerous mental health benefits. They have the power to uplift spirits, reduce stress, and provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment in our lives
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