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Dogs truly are man’s best friend, or at least any pet that you prefer. Did you know that having pets indeed reduces stress, anxiety, worries, and increases happiness, friendship, and comfort. I guess it is in our nature to love furry, cute, and small beings.
Animals have proven to be beneficial for those who are dealing with anxiety depression and stress. Dr. Alan Beck, a psychologist at Purdue University, conducted a study case 30 years ago along with Aaron Katcher, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania. The study proved the benefits of having the company of a dog and a cat around. The results confirmed that when a person is around a dog or cat, his blood pressure drops, the heart rate slows down, more regular breathing and the muscles relax. So, how do pets help with anxiety, stress, and depression?
PETS AND STRESS HORMONES
Our hormones play a significant role in managing our mood. The stress, anxiety and mood swings that we experience are directly related to our levels of hormones like serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. Interacting with pets for a mere five minutes reduces the amount of cortisol stress hormone and releasing oxytocin rapidly. Oxytocin is the “happy hormone” that reduces stress stimulates happiness in human beings. Touch and sensory act of stroking pets also help with relieving stress by decreasing the blood pressure.
CHILDREN AND PETS
In a study conducted by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 643 children were screened for BMI, anxiety levels, screen time and physical activities.
The above model shows how pet dogs may influence the physical and mental health of children aged 4 to 10 years. The model summarizes study findings regarding how pet dogs promote children’s behavioral and emotional development, mental health and physical activities.
The study proved that 21 percent for the children who did not own a pet were tested positive for anxiety. Whereas, only 12 percent of children who were had a Flemish Giant Rabbit were tested positive for anxiety.
A SENSE OF BELONGING
Human beings are social animals, and we enjoy attention which gives us a sense of belonging in the community we live in. A pet acts precisely like a caretaker, a companion, a living creature that keeps us busy, so we don’t surrender ourselves too deep thoughts of self-hatred and pity which is a symptom in people dealing with anxiety and depression. Pets keep us occupied and engaged with them. We learn how to be kind and open up in front of them which prevents us from suppressing our emotions.
Pets can sense a shift in our mood, but they don’t necessarily understand it truly. While dealing with depression a person might experience bouts of mood swings where he/she might not want to leave the bed or the house, having a pet around sets a routine as they know they have a pet to feed, care, and look after. This gives a sense of responsibility, a purpose and a motivation to carry forward.
PETS INCREASE OUR SELF-ESTEEM
Imagine being around someone who will look at you with heart eyes and lots of compassion all the time, that’s exactly what pets do. They don’t judge our actions and love us unconditionally. They celebrate our victories and cuddle with us when we’re low. Pets teach us how to be more empathetic, compassionate and loving. With a pet around us, we feel like we belong somewhere, we feel loved and happy.
SENSE OF SECURITY AND CALMNESS
Dogs are loyal companions and are always there to protect us from any threat. This generates a sense of security and helps us feel relaxed and calm around our dogs. Pets also have a relaxing effect that we experience when we touch them. Petting and stroking the animal releases oxytocin in our bodies and reduces cortisol which is responsible for increasing stress.
Some even find the sound cats soothing and helpful in relieving stress. The purring sound is believed to be calming for cat lovers. Pets can intuitively respond to their owners. They provide emotional support in times of crisis and reduce the feeling of isolation by giving physical warmth and attention.
PETS AND HEALTHY HABITS
Pets push you to get out of your house for fresh air even when it’s the last thing you’d want to do. They make us realize the importance of physical and mental health every single day. Due to this, we end up going out more often without even realizing it. They channel their positivity into our dull lives and ignite a sense of freedom and responsibility towards our selves.
- Physical fitness: Our senses are refreshed every time we ride a horse or go for a run with our dogs. Working out with our dog can help with depression as exercise is good for managing periods of depression.
- Social interaction: Going out with your dog to parks and community centers give you an opportunity to open up and interact with like-minded people. It sparks friendships, builds your social circle and lets you open up.
- Daily routines: Every pet has its daily routine that needs to follow. When people are dealing with depression complete the tasks in their daily routines, they feel accomplished and in control of everything. Waking up early because they know the repercussions of not following the daily routine from dawn to dusk can be painful for their pets.
- Pet care promotes self-care: When we look after our dogs, leopard, gecko, cats, birds, Flemish Giant Rabbits, horses, etc, we groom them; we clean their space and feed them. These acts like a constant reminder that we need to look after ourselves similarly. The routine helps us inculcate these habits in our personal lives and encourages us to work on ourselves similarly.
Animal-Assisted Therapy is recommended to those who seek to find help for depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. The human-animal connection allows people to confront their emotions and address them to the animals through powerful non-verbal communication. It is said that the best therapist has fur and four legs and these four-legged companions provide a sense of security and endless unconditional love.
About The Author: Harsh Arora is a proud father of four rescued dogs and a leopard gecko. Besides being a full-time dog father, he is a freelance content writer/blogger and an educationist, with more than 6 years experience in the field of content writing.