Owning a pet is said to have many benefits including physical health, mental health, and improved quality of life. Almost 20% of Americans are suffering from mental illness this year, according to Mental Health America (MHA). If you or someone you love are concerned about the impact of mental illness, now is the time to take a deeper look into how the mental health benefits of pet ownership could play a part in your journey to living a happier, healthier life.
Pets provide companionship. And while this may seem like an obvious concept, there’s much more to it than one might think. Due to recent events, of course, loneliness or social isolation is not very appealing to anyone. We’ve seen firsthand the impact of a lack of social interaction on our daily lives. With isolation as a seasonal norm now, the need for companionship is at an all-time high. You may also want to keep in mind that there are some very serious health concerns that come along with it.
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), loneliness can result in high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death. These are very severe conditions and should not be taken lightly, especially as we age.
A pet can help significantly reduce your risk of these and many other health risks by providing you with a companion who will love you unconditionally no matter what. Pets don’t have bias’, therefore they don’t know about social stigmas or prejudices against you that may have led to the loneliness you feel.
Depression is very prevalent in the U.S., especially post-pandemic. Not only does this harm your mental health, but it can also lead to things such as insomnia, trouble with memory, risk of heart attacks, weakened immune system, etc. All of these have a serious impact on one’s life.
Owning a pet such as a dog or a cat can significantly reduce your depression and may even cure it. Keep in mind that everyone has bad days from time to time, but having a furry friend around can and will ensure those days are numbered.
Pets give you a regular schedule, giving you a sense of purpose and routine day-to-day. They also provide calmness and clarity, often easing your mind of intrusive thoughts that come with depression. The interaction with animals also increases serotonin and dopamine levels; these are commonly referred to as the “happy hormones” because they make you feel good and directly correlate to positive mental health.
Stress has a very negative impact on your health, it can cause problems including headaches, diabetes, fatigue, etc. It’s important to keep an eye out for things that cause stress. Unfortunately, it looks different for everyone, but some common indicators are taking work stressors home with you, financial problems, and relationship issues.
While there are several different things you can do to help relieve stress, one of the best ways is to have a pet. Like depression, those happy hormones also can help with stress relief, but the responsibility of caring for someone else can help take your mind off whatever is causing your stress. When you come home from work you’ll be occupied with feeding, walking, and playing with your pet so that you won’t have any trouble turning your mind off at the end of the day.
Pets can help develop many things in children including emotional intelligence, relationship-building skills, and empathy. They will also help children who are hyperactive or aggressive by soothing and calming them. While it is smart to have a pet in your household for these reasons, it is also important to understand that a young child is not able to be the sole caretaker of the pet. That responsibility falls on the parent(s) to ensure that the pet is being well taken care of.
Adds Structure to Your Day
The responsibility that comes with owning a cat or dog will automatically provide your day with some structure. It will get you out of bed in the morning as you will need to feed and begin caring for them. This structure can be super helpful and will result in your mental health increasing over time.
A consistent daily routine will begin to form creating a healthy sleep schedule too! Benefits of this include mental clarity, increased energy levels, and emotional well-being. Sleep is super important but can be hard to regulate due to busy schedules. Your furry friend will aid in regulating your day-to-day as they rely heavily on a good consistent schedule.
Aids with Existing Conditions
Conditions such as ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s, heart attacks, and high blood pressure can all be managed or significantly improved through pet ownership. Their commitment, calming effects, unconditional love, and socialization skills can help those affected by these conditions.
Taking a look at ADHD, people who are diagnosed with this condition are very hyperactive and oftentimes have trouble staying focused on a singular task. While there are medications available that can help, owning a pet is a great way to also assist. Because of the hyperactivity that comes with ADHD, having a pet to play with can be great, especially for children, because it gives you someone to play with as well as keep you occupied.
Pets are said to have a magic touch on those affected by Alzheimer’s. They can be a constant in a world that may seem so confusing and they provide love and support. A dog or a cat can be something so therapeutic and reduce the anxiety and depression that comes along with this terrible disease.
Pets Are a Big Commitment, Despite the Benefits
It is also very important to keep in mind the commitment that comes with owning a pet. They are a lot of time, money, and responsibility, and not everyone should get a pet just because they might help with stressful times here and there.
Dogs and cats specifically should only be considered if you have the time and money to give them the best life possible. You should also have patients as these animals can be destructive and have health problems that will need to be dealt with properly. There are many solutions to these things including puppy proofing, training, and pet insurance.
Puppy proofing and training are available for all animals, but can come at a cost. This may be something you consider budgeting for and saving for before bringing a pet home. To not add any stressors you should also look into what the right pet might be for you. This will take into consideration your lifestyle and personality to create the perfect match!
Next, take a look at pet insurance. Familiarize yourself with how to use pet insurance to be sure you are best prepared to take care of your furry friend. Whether it’s for routine visits or emergencies you can never be too prepared. Having insurance in place will help combat the expensive bills that can come with owning and caring for a pet and will also provide you with some piece of mind knowing that your pet will always receive the best care possible.
The more prepared you are to care for your pet before its arrival, the better off you will be in receiving the many benefits that come with pet ownership.
Doug-thanks for the article on the mental health of having a pet and its many benefits of having a pet. You are right in saying that it is important to wait to have a pet after retirement. Since I will retire soon, I will definitely think about getting a pet.