Supervised by Melissa Barton, MC, LPC-S
Does having pets improve mental health?
Absolutely! Have you always believed that pets improve people’s quality of life but don’t know exactly how it works? Do you currently need to convince your parents or spouse that adopting a new dog will benefit the household? Well, lucky for you, here are some bargaining points and a few of the top reasons pets help us stay mentally healthy!
Pets increase oxytocin, the “happiness hormone”
Whether we are patting a pudgy puppy belly, playfully chasing our cat around the room, or cuddling with our pup, we are actively harnessing our happiness hormone, oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that is released when we show love and affection, spend time with loved ones, or share a laugh. That explains why when our pets do something so silly it cracks a giggle out of us, we feel an increased sense of connection and happiness. So, you probably didn’t need any more reasons to spend all day hanging out with Fido or Bella, but there you go!
Pets Helps Improve Our Sleep
Are you someone that feels silly about letting your fur baby sleep in bed with you? Well, don’t! Numerous studies have proven that allowing your pet to sleep in the bed with you improves sleep quality! Additional studies have provided evidence that people who cuddle with their pets at night have decreased anxiety, feel calmer, and fall asleep faster. In fact, a study reported by healthline.com stated that women, in particular, sleep more soundly when next to a dog. So, don’t feel bad or embarrassed about letting your pet sleep with you; embrace it. The next time someone tries arguing that sharing a bed with a pet is a bad thing lay out these facts!
Chances are you’ve heard of a “therapy dog” – and with good reason! Pets generally provide a sense of calm and security that can aid individuals in reducing the symptoms of anxiety. Petting a dog for 10 or more minutes has shown to decrease blood pressure and stress levels. For example, if you find yourself having anxiety and a fluffy pup comes up by your side asking for attention, you’re likely to become distracted from your racing thoughts and instead focus your attention on the positive – the cute fur-ball in front of you. Pets may also help reduce anxiety by making us laugh, showing us affection, making us feel safe, or providing companionship.
Dogs and cats, along with other fun critters, are a great way to counteract loneliness. Pets provide friendship and help us fill our time in healthy ways. Dogs also help keep us active and get us outdoors, which is likely to increase our social interaction with others. One of the purest forms of unconditional love comes from our pets. Pets don’t care how many diplomas you have, what your relationship status is, or what your hair looks like; they are there to love you for who you are! That’s why having pets is a great way to lessen the feeling of being lonely. Pets are wonderful for kids, too, especially those that are the only child. If a child has no brother or sister to play with, getting a fur sibling may be a great option!
Takeaway and Other Benefits
Overall, you’ve learned that pets increase our happiness by tapping into a hormone called oxytocin. Additionally, pets benefit our mental health by improving our sleeping habits, helping manage anxiety and reducing loneliness. But did you also know pets can be a confidence and self-esteem boost in kids? Studies have shown that kids that read to their pets have an increased sense of confidence in their ability to read out loud. Pets also help provide a sense of togetherness in families. As they tend to be a central part of the family, pets give parents and kids something to talk about and enjoy together. So, if you’ve been on the fence about whether any pet benefits mental health or not, it’s time to hop on over and join the millions of others experiencing the positive effects of caring for a pet!
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Other Therapy Services Offered with Barton Counseling Services
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