Throughout our lives, many of us will turn to our pets to help us cope in tough times. In fact, 28% of young people who completed our Candid Covid Survey 2.0 this year identified spending time with pets as a top coping mechanism.
While many of us may have relied on our pets to get us through, we probably haven’t spent much time considering how or why our beloved pets can benefit our mental health. All pets, especially dogs and cats can be a source of comfort and boost our mood. Here are 7 ways our pets can help boost our mood.
1. FRIENDS FOR LIFE
Pets can be a best friend, they will be happy or even over-joyed to see us each and every day. They will listen to our problems no matter how large or small and never judge us. They love us unconditionally, simply for who we are. A close bond to our pets offers us companionship when we feel lonely or sad and helps to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
2. KEEPING US GOING
When we are lacking in motivation or feeling low, caring for a pet gives us an important routine to the day, they will always need feeding, grooming, their space or habitat cleaned, some will need walking and play time. Pets need this from us to lead happy and contented lives, being able to be provide part or all of their care can gives us a sense of purpose and responsibility and taps into our sense of self and how the care we give makes a difference.
3. PLAY TIME
Playing with a dog or cat can be real fun, giving us all important time out to share in something joyous and be in the moment with our pet. It has been shown to elevate our levels of serotonin and dopamine which enable us to feel calm and relaxed. Play is a source of important stimulation for both body and mind in both pets and their humans.
4. THE POWER OF PATS
Pets fulfil our basic human need for touch. Stroking a pet is sensory, bringing about a sense of calm to help reduce and soothe both feelings of anxiety and stress. Our pets really love this too, so the benefits are felt by all.
5. STAYING ACTIVE
Walking the dog not only exercises them but also us, their humans. Walking is great exercise and releases mood boosting endorphins, which help to strengthen our mental health and makes us feel good both physically and emotionally. It gives us a purpose to go outside and you are not alone when with your loyal four-legged companion. It can also be a social time, as dog owners often say hello to each other or stop for a chat about their respective dogs, this promotes a sense of social connection and well-being which can go on to enhance our day.
6. CREATING CALM
It is not only four legged furry friends which enhance our wellbeing, watching fish in an aquarium is therapeutic and can reduce tension, lower pulse rate and bring about a sense of relaxation and calm.
7. BEING PRESENT
We can also learn mindfulness from our pets as they, unlike us humans they innately live in the moment, we have to learn to do this for our emotional well-being. As the saying goes “Be more dog!”
These are just some of the ways our mental health benefits from being a pet owner and a real insight into how much our beloved pets give us, whilst asking for very little in return. To our pets, we are their everything!
If you don’t have a pet of your own do you have a relative or family friend who has a pet you could perhaps offer to help care for so you too can benefit your mental health from spending time with them.
Images: This post features pictures of the Youth Trust Team’s pets. Thanks to all who shared them with us.