An alarmingly high number of people both in the U.S. and abroad suffer from anxiety and depression. While dealing with these can be dreadfully difficult, did you know pets can help? Study after study has shown that pets help improve both mental and physical health in a plethora of ways.
If you are experiencing anxiety, depression or stress, or you know someone who is, pet ownership may be a viable, helpful option for you. We’ll discuss the benefits of owning a furry friend below.
Do Pets Really Help Reduce Anxiety and Depression?
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute found in a survey that “74% of pet owners reported mental health improvement from pet ownership,” and “75% of pet owners reported a friend’s or family member’s mental health has improved from pet ownership.” Additionally, over 50% of pet owners found their physical health, or the physical health of friends and family members, improved from owning a pet.
In addition to anxiety, depression and stress, pets are known to relieve loneliness and social isolation.
How Do Pets Help Reduce Anxiety and Depression?
When experiencing moderate to severe anxiety or depression, keeping a routine can be difficult, and some days, getting out of bed can be a challenge.
Having a living animal that is depending on you to feed, walk and care for it may help provide motivation, a regular schedule and a sense of purpose for each day.
Anxiety and depression can often make people feel lonely and isolated. Though it’s tempting to stay alone, engaging with others actually helps ward off depression.
When you’re out on a walk or taking your dog to the park, passersby are sure to stop, say hello and give Scooby an extra belly rub or scratch behind his ear. Nothing makes for easy conversation like a furry, four-legged friend.
Animals have a way of bringing people together – even strangers – in the best sorts of ways.
On the days when loneliness feels all-consuming, our canine and feline friends never leave us, but provide a constant, loving support network for us.
Oftentimes, pets can sense when their owners are sick or in distress and they willingly provide that extra unconditional love we need.
While exercise is not a cure-all for low moods and anxiety, physical activity does help release endorphins that can help improve your overall health and mood.
Additionally, just playing with your pet has shown to produce oxytocin and dopamine, both of which help foster optimism in both you and your pet.
Responsibility and Self-Worth
Some people can likely relate to the feelings of despair and low self-esteem that often accompany anxiety and depression. While such feelings are horrendously discouraging, owning a pet can help.
Research has shown that the responsibility of pet ownership improves self-esteem by allowing you the opportunity to care not only for yourself, but also for another animal that is depending on you.
There are unfortunately no quick fixes to depression or anxiety, but owning a pet can help. If you are considering adopting a furry friend but are not sure where to start, consider some of our local animal shelters that have plenty of pets just waiting for a forever companion.
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