It’s very likely you know someone who has an emotional support animal in their life. This has become a relatively common thing in our society these days. It underscores the importance of pets in our emotional and mental health.
Beyond emotional support animals, ordinary pets in our lives have an incredibly important impact on our mental health. As May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, we want to make sure to acknowledge the positive benefits our pets have on our mental health.
According to the website PositivePsycology.com, pet owners are less likely to suffer depression, experience lower levels of blood pressure during stressful situations, have lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, survive longer after heart attacks, live longer, and have about a third less visits to the doctor after the age of 65.
Those things alone would be plenty to make most of us happy to have our pets. Or encourage you to get one if you don’t have one. I know as a pet owner, the animals in my household have helped me through difficult times on many occasions.
Last year presented a very unique sort of challenges to all of us. Depression was at an all time high as a result. Those of us with pets leaned heavily on their presence to help support us.
One of the positive impacts on our society was the reduction of the number of pets in human societies and shelters. Many people went out in search of companions to help them in their isolation and their newfound challenges.
In addition to those things I listed above, there are a number of other things that pets do to help our mental health. For instance, they help to fulfill our need for touch. Petting, hugging, and playing with our pets tends to provide significant relief from stress and anxiety. This kind of activity is know to produce increased levels of serotonin and dopamine, resulting in increased calm and relaxation.
Their requirements for regular attention and care also add a level of structure to our lives that can be helpful in maintaining our mental health. Many also require regular exercise which helps us to get outside and also increases our own level of physical activity.
We also play an important role in the mental health of our pets, which I’ll get into in later posts.