The positive correlation between pets and mental health is undeniable – countless studies have shown that pets can be a great source of comfort and motivation, and help us live mentally healthier lives. Our pets provide us with unconditional love and unwavering companionship, so it’s no wonder they have such a beneficial effect on our wellbeing!
According to a 2015 Harris Poll, 95% of pet owners think of their animal as a member of the family – no matter their age. Children, adolescents, adults, and seniors all find joy in their pets, so it makes sense that pets and our mental wellbeing go hand in hand.
Check out these 6 ways that pets can make us happier and healthier!
How animals aid our mental wellbeing
1. Animals improve both our mental and physical health. Interacting with pets can lower blood pressure, decrease stress, and help prevent anxiety and depression. Studies have even shown that the sensory act of stroking a pet can calm hyperactive or aggressive individuals.
2. Pets can provide a sense of security, and a friend to share the days with. Caring for pets often makes owners feel wanted and needed, which is particularly valuable for older people or those who live alone.
3. Our pets are great listeners – they offer unconditional love and support, and won’t criticise you. This can enhance a person’s sense of self confidence, especially if feeling isolated or misunderstood.
4. Pets can help you meet new people! Dog owners are more likely to stop and chat to each other on walks, but other pets can also introduce you to new people in pet shops, training classes, or online groups.
5. Animals can reduce stress-related hormones; studies on the correlation between pets and mental health show that petting and playing with animals can decrease your cortisol levels (the stress hormone), and increase your oxytocin release (another stress reliever). This is why animal-assisted therapy is so effective, and how pets can especially help those that suffer from anxiety.
6. They make us happy, and science proves it! Interacting with an animal raises the levels of serotonin and dopamine in our bodies, which are hormones that help relax the nervous system and give us the feeling of being happy. When we smile and laugh at our pets’ cute behaviour, it stimulates the release of our “happiness hormones!”
Pets helping mental health in lockdown
It’s no secret that lots of people felt lonelier than ever before during the periods of lockdown, and many adopted or turned to their pets to combat feelings of isolation. Members of our We Love Pets team shared how their pets helped them get through those challenging periods:
“During lockdown when there wasn’t much to do, caring for my guinea pigs gave me structure and entertainment. I loved sitting and watching tv with them every evening! They’re super cute and I couldn’t imagine life without them.” Heather, WLP Team
“While working at home through lockdown, my three cats were the best company. Now that I’m back in the office, coming home to them at the end of the day makes me so happy!” Alice, WLP Team
Whether they’re furry or feathered, scaly or slimy, there’s no denying that our pets have a hugely positive impact in our lives!