Around 264 million people are affected by depression around the world, another 50 million suffer from dementia, 45 million from bipolar disorder. A staggering percentage of the total disease burden is attributed to mental health illnesses alone today. Not only are animals fantastic company to humans but also teach us companionship and give unconditional love. Research proves that pet parenting has a significant impact on our mental well-being. Here’s how:
Pets help fight depression
We may be connected on social media but at times of physical disconnection, depression is usually the result. Studies have shown that having a pet gives a sense of companionship rather than ownership. Petting a dog, getting cuddled by or even being followed by one gives a sense of value to life. Pets are someone to share a routine with, which also helps in building healthy habits. They are amazing company and give meaning to life and living.
Reduce stress and anxiety
Pets are very efficient stress relievers. Interacting with a dog for as short as five minutes can reduce the stress hormone, cortisone and release ‘happy’ hormones, serotonin and dopamine. Pets live in the moment; they do not worry about yesterday or tomorrow. Living with them could be a remarkable example for everyone to stress less about yesterday and to be less anxious about tomorrow. It is well documented that pet parents are more mindful and happy compared to others. Pets are also very effective in calming hyperactive children and reduce childhood-teenage anxieties.
Build up social skills
Having a dog comes with responsibilities and walking them regularly is one of them. As parents walk their dogs, they also get to see other dogs and their parents. Many times dogs get into ‘doggie’ conversations with others, sniffing each other. This gives parents a chance to strike a conversation too. These short interactions help in reducing social anxiety and progressively make socialisation easy. Children with autism who struggle with social relationships find pets beneficial. Assertiveness is greater in autistic kids with pets.
Impart sense of purpose and self-esteem
Purpose in life, one that drives to the future, is important. Everyone needs a purpose in life and pets can be one. Taking care and being responsible for another life is definitely a purpose and reason to look forward to tomorrow. Taking a dog for a walk, cleaning a litter tray or waking up early to feed a pet rabbit may seem small and easy to some, but it gives purpose to the lives of many. The unconditional love that they get in return is what drives their lives.
Help cope with mental illnesses
A pet can distract from symptoms of health conditions. Their constant presence helps in coping with loneliness. They promote a strong sense of identity, self-worth and meaning to life. Their presence can be helpful as a distraction from hearing voices or suicidal thoughts. Research has proved that sharing a bed with pets leads to a better quality of sleep.