The average domestic pet, such as a dog, cat even a goldfish can provide us with many therapeutic benefits. Pets can ease loneliness, reduce stress, promote social interaction, encourage exercise and playfulness, and provide us with unconditional love and affection.
How pets can affect mood and health
While most pet owners are clear about the immediate joys that come with sharing their lives with companion animals, many remain unaware of the physical and mental health benefits that can also accompany the pleasure of playing with or snuggling up to a furry friend. It is only recently that studies have begun to scientifically explore the benefits of the human-animal bond. Studies have found that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets and it’s not all about unconditional love although that actually provides a wellness boost, too. On an emotional level, owning a pet can decrease depression, stress and anxiety; health-wise, it can lower your blood pressure, improve your immunity and even decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters which have a calming and relaxing effect. People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets and a pet does not have to be a dog or a cat. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and pulse rate.
One of the reasons for the therapeutic effects is that most pets fulfill the basic human need to touch. Even hardened criminals in prison have shown long-term changes in their behavior after interacting with pets, many of them experiencing mutual affection for the first time. Stroking, holding, cuddling, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we are stressed. The companionship of a pet can also break isolation and some pets are a great stimulus for healthy exercise, which can substantially boost mood.
How pets can be Therapeutic
Incorporating healthy lifestyle changes can play an important role in easing symptoms of depression, stress, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and anxiety. Caring for a pet can help with those lifestyle changes by increasing exercise. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring and repetitious. Taking a dog for a walk or simply chasing a kitten around, are fun ways to fit healthy daily exercise into your schedule.
Pets provide companionship. Isolation and loneliness can make disorders such as depression even worse. Caring for a living animal can help make you feel needed and wanted, and take the focus away from your problems. Most pet owners talk to their pets, and the pet will always listen and understand.
Social Ice Breaker
Pets can help you meet new people. Dogs can be a great social ice breaker for their owners. Dog owners frequently stop and talk to each other on walks or in a dog park. Pet owners also meet new people in clubs, and training classes.
Animals can be an anxiety soother. The companionship of a dog can offer comfort, help ease anxiety, and build self-confidence for people anxious about going out into the world.
Structure and Routine
Dogs keep structure and routine in your day. Many pets, especially dogs, require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. No matter your mood. Depressed, anxious, or stressed you will always have to get out of bed to feed, exercise, and care for your pet.
Sensory Stress Relief
Animals provide sensory stress relief. Touch and movement are two healthy ways to quickly manage stress. This could involve petting a cat or taking a dog for a walk.
If you are suffering from stress and anxiety please call Nancy Caltagirone, M.A. in Orange County at (714) 241-8400