It’s widely known that owning a pet can help to improve our quality of life. In fact, there’s a range of studies and reports that have proven the positive effects of having a pet, with 94% of pet owners saying that their furry friend makes them happy. But can owning an animal companion really help with anxiety? Read on to find out more.
Pets are great company for those suffering from stress and anxiety. Studies show that just spending time with a dog can lower cortisol, which is a hormone linked to stress. As well as this, interaction with dogs can increase your levels of oxytocin, which is a hormone that helps mothers to bond with their babies, so you can enjoy a similar level of connection with a pet. In addition to anxiety, this can help with feelings of stress and being overwhelmed.
It has even been suggested that spending time with animals can help those with autism deal with anxiety. One study showed that when children with autism spectrum disorder played with guinea pigs in a classroom, they felt calmer and their anxiety levels decreased.
Simply knowing that you have a pet who is always there for you can help to relieve anxiety. They offer unconditional love as well as giving you a sense of structure and support. Having a pet in your home also gives you something to focus on and can support you through any feelings of loneliness or isolation.
More generally, having pets encourages you to be active and gives you a reason to spend more time outside. Having more fresh air and getting regular exercise can help when it comes to improving mood, sleep pattern and mental health. This can also benefit you when it comes to anxiety, championing a more positive mental state. Whether you’re simply rolling around with your pet on the floor, or taking a dog out for a walk, animals can truly be great motivators when it comes to helping us reach our daily exercise quotas.
How long does it take for effects to show?
Even just spending a small amount of time with a pet can go a long way in helping to reduce stress-related hormones, and having your own pet means that you can enjoy this relief every day. Interacting with household pets can increase your levels of both serotonin and dopamine, which also go a long way to improving your mood. Looking after a pet not only means you’re caring for an animal but also for yourself due to the continuous release of mood-boosting hormones.
As well as this, there are many more additional benefits that can improve your mental health, including increased activity and companionship. With all of these positives, it’s definitely worth considering rehoming a pet. But before committing to a decision, take the time to consider your living situation and whether it would be suitable for a pet, and make sure your lifestyle provides enough free time for caring responsibilities.