BY ANDREW MCDONALD
Pets reduce anxiety:
Studies have shown that playing with animals, even just for five minutes, helps fight stress hormones. This makes having a pet, particularly one you can engage with physically, a powerful aid for anxiety sufferers.
Cats and dogs v depression:
Serotonin and dopamine, the body’s own calming and pleasure chemicals, are increased by playing with feline or canine friends. Laughing and smiling at their cute behaviour leads to even higher levels of these ‘happiness hormones’.
Animals beat stress:
A study took a group of stressed adults and gave them a rabbit, a turtle, and a toy to play with. Petting the rabbit and the turtle noticeably reduced stress, whilst touching the toy didn’t have any effect. Amazingly, these same results occurred even in participants who claimed they didn’t particularly like animals.
Pets build relationships:
Looking after an animal leads naturally to a relationship with it, thereby building social skills in young and old alike. Studies show children who grow up around pets have an easier time socialising with their peers than those who don’t.
Pets provide a purpose:
There’s a touching scene in Rocky V where Mickey tells Rocky he’s his purpose for going on with life. Looking after another human being is a powerful motivator, but this is true of caring for any other living creature. Believe it or not, even pets which don’t engage much with their carers bring these same benefits. Strange as it may seem, research showed crickets reduced loneliness in a group of elderly people.
Animals teach mindfulness:
Underpinning mindfulness is the idea of living in the moment. Pets do exactly this by their very nature. They neither worry about yesterday, nor fret about tomorrow, the present is their only focus. We can learn a lot from them.
Pets boost our self-esteem:
Psychologists at the universities of Miami and St. Louis showed, through experiments, that pets lead to better self-esteem, increased fitness, less loneliness and more conscientious.
Animals improve social lives:
From pet owning clubs, to meeting other people on dog walks, to giving owners something to talk about, looking after an animal also improves your social life with other humans!
Dogs reduce fear:
A vulnerable person living on their own feels better with a dog around. Canine friends offer protection, as well as many other benefits. This is true not only for the pet owner, but family and friends can also feel more at ease knowing the person’s vulnerability is offset against having a dog at home.
Dogs and horses increase physical fitness:
Wait! What’s physical fitness doing in an article about mental wellbeing? Simple. Being healthier physically leads to better mental wellness (and vice versa). Taking dogs for walks and riding horses makes us fitter in both body and mind. That said, people are even starting to take other animals, for example cats, for walks in increasing numbers. Just make sure your feline friend is also happy with this activity!