This article is contributed by guest writer, Stephanie (Follow her work @sjaywrites13).
5 Ways That Pets Boost Your Mental Health
Your pet is part of the family, and you would do anything for them. While your pet can bring on just as many headaches as smiles, at the end of the day, they are undoubtedly a source of happiness in your life. If you’re a pet owner, this might seem obvious. But did you know that there are real, scientifically proven, mental health benefits to owning a pet? Read on to discover a few reasons why you might just need your pet more than they need you!
1. Reducing Anxiety and Stress
If you’re anything like me, when you start to feel a rise in your anxiety, sitting down with your animal is a great way to calm yourself and put a smile on your face. Proximity to your pets actively makes you happier by increasing the amount of oxytocin being created in your brain and giving you a sense of companionship.
One of the most common practices recommended to people struggling with anxiety is a practice called grounding. It helps people control their anxiety by focusing intently on the different physical aspects of their immediate environment. Pets help ground people in this same way by being a constant and comforting reminder of what’s going on right in front of you.
2. Owning A Pet May Alleviate Symptoms of Depression
Companion animals can help people with depression in the same way that they help people with anxiety. They serve as a grounding mechanism by giving us something positive and comforting to focus on and keep our brains from spiraling out of control.
For people struggling with depression, pets can also act as a proxy for empathy and social encounters that can help people build back up some of the skills that depression tends to erode. Practicing these positive interactions with an animal can provide a safe and controlled environment that’s really beneficial for growth.
3. Better Quality of Sleep
Those of us with anxiety and other mental illnesses know that sleeping can sometimes be a whole lot harder than it should be. A recent study shows that sleeping with your pet can provide some much-needed relief. Pets are a great source of companionship, and not sleeping by yourself can help you relax and get a good night’s rest.
4. They Can Give You A Sense of Direction
One of the best things a pet can do for you is give you a renewed sense of purpose. Now that you have something special to take care of, you’ve got a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Creating a schedule for you and your animal can help you control your mental state by providing structure and focus.
Sometimes people with anxiety and depression can find it really challenging to pick themselves up and do the things they want to be doing. A pet can provide that extra motivation and positivity you need to get rolling.
5. You’ll Get More Exercise
Maybe not quite as much if you get a cat, but hey, having a pet, especially a youngster, will have you running around town to keep up with the little guy. Exercise has been repeatedly shown to be one of the best things you can do for anxiety or depression. Exercising with your pet will not only provide even more structure to your day, it will get you moving and help stimulate your body and mind in a healthy way.