How Pets can Improve Mental Health

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man with dog in grass

“Friends with benefits: on the positive consequences of pet ownership” published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology posits that pet owners fare better on self-esteem, exercise, greater conscientiousness, less fear, and feel less isolated. For someone who suffers from a mental illness, having a pet can greatly increase their chances of happiness and improve their overall well-being. Another study conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) found that animal-assistance intervention (AAI), has even been shown to help people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you’re considering getting a pet, there are several reasons why having a pet is beneficial for your mental health:

  • They combat loneliness. HABRI found that animals provide emotional security, psychophysiological and affect regulation, neurological and other behavioral responses of humans to our social environment. This means that by having a pet, we are likely to feel less alone – and are likely to feel more cared for.
  • They reduce stress. Pets capture our heart with their cuteness, and make our lives brighter because they love us. According to Time magazine, people who have pets are more likely to have lower blood pressure, heart rate and lower risk for heart disease.
  • They get you moving. Having a pet typically involves walking or playing with them, and this gets us up and moving. Movement can help relieve stress and can get us outside. Being out in the sun replenishes our need for vitamin D, which helps improve our mental health.
  • They listen. If you are feeling like you need someone to talk to, having a pet can greatly help with this. Several studies have shown that pets can tell when we are feeling angry or upset, and often tend to nurture us if they feel that we are down. This shows compassion and feeling this from our pet can make us feel so much better.
  • They give you a purpose. Depression can make us feel like neglecting ourselves in every aspect – but having a pet forces us to take care of someone other than ourselves. This can help us get out of the funk and can make us feel better to focus on someone else.
  • They keep you present. We can easily get caught up in so many thoughts and feelings, causing us to feel unbalanced and chaotic. Dr. Leslie Irvine, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Colorado, states that animals bring us intrinsic rewards and they stretch our emotional capacity. We must show animals that we love and care for them through touch, eye contact, and other non-verbal methods, keeping us present in the moment.

Having a pet gives us the chance to provide for another – giving us a sense of need and belonging. Pets love us unconditionally, which can make a world of difference for someone who is feeling upset. Adding a pet to your family may help you to feel a greater sense of purpose, love, and support for your mental health.

When you’re making a decision to change your life, you need a program you can trust. Avalon Malibu provides trusted results. Offering both primary mental health and substance use treatment, our full continuum of care seeks to heal mind, body, and spirit. For a confidential assessment and more information, call us today: 888-958-7511

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