The Effects of Pets on Mental Health: From Reducing Stress to Increasing Physical Activity

Pets create positive impacts on their owner's lives, but do they actually improve your mental health?

Companion animals have made their way into people's homes and hearts. Pet ownership has spanned far beyond simply owning cats and dogs, moving into owning reptiles, rodents, and even farm animals. Small animals that live in cages like guinea pigs and hamsters provide many of the same wellness benefits as their larger counterparts; even fish make for a great companion. While there are many benefits of pet ownership, what are the effects of pets on mental health?

Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet

Dog owners all attest to how wonderful it feels to get unconditional love from their four-legged family member, but there truly is something special about the human-animal bond. According to the Mental Health Foundation, human-animal interaction can work wonders for your overall well-being.

1. Reduce Stress

????While pets initially come with a little bit of stress, once you get out of the puppy or kitten phase, your animal companion can actually help reduce the amount of stress in your life. This is because stress releases cortisol into your bloodstream, and having a pet around can help reduce the cortisol levels in your body.

2. Increase Physical Activity

Since most pets need to be walked, ridden, or simply played with, they have a positive impact on your physical health. An increase in physical activity helps reduce blood pressure are your overall quality of life.

3. Provide Social Support

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Animals are great listeners. If you have feelings of loneliness or are craving social interaction, having a pet around can pull you out of social isolation, giving you a friend to bond with. Many older people find that having a pet in their home makes them feel a little less alone, and it also gives them a sense of purpose.

Those who have trouble interacting with others find that pets give them a way to social network with other pet owners, therefore increasing their confidence and overall self-worth.

4. Reduce Anxiety

According to the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute, pets can lower blood pressure and reduce levels of anxiety. Petting an animal increases the levels of oxytocin in the brain, which produces good feelings overall. Habri also said that pets can provide a sense of security, therefore reducing their levels of anxiety.

5. Provides Structure 

Pet care can also give someone a sense of purpose. If your day is feeling monotonous, having a pet can change your routine and bring focus to someone else's needs other than your own. No matter what age the pet owner is, having a pet can increase their mindfulness.

Support Animals

Animals also provide support in many other healthcare capacities. According to the Mental Health Foundation, those with autism have great results with pets. Since you can do no wrong with a pet, those with autism spectrum disorder can build confidence and other social skills through pet ownership. Therapy dogs can also help provide calm if they are feeling overwhelmed. Autistic children who have sensory issues can use pets in animal-assisted therapy. Touching a pet can help them learn how things feel, smell, or sound in a calm and fun environment that they have control over.

Emotional support animals are for a variety of mental health conditions, from ADHD to post-traumatic stress disorder. Trained dogs can even sense when an episode is about to happen and can calm their person down.

Do you feel like your pet increases your mental health? Let us know on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page. 

READ MORE: How Are Service, Emotional Support & Therapy Dogs Different?