Having a pet is good for your mental health

Do you live with an animal? If the answer is yes, take care of it with all your love and take advantage of the huge benefits it brings to your mental health. Let’s talk about the most important ones.

Why owning a pet benefits your mental health?

Last update: July 18, 2023

Having a pet is good for your mental health. It doesn’t matter if they have hair, feathers, scales; if they allow themselves to be hugged or you just watch them do their thing. their presence comforting in many ways and in many ways.

Science is not alien to this, and it begins to describe the advantages of the company of an animal in human life. Let’s take a look at how contact with other species affects mood and emotional well-being. We invite you to continue reading.

Why owning a pet benefits your mental health?

with your company animals are able to change the chemical composition of our brain. This is stated in a study published in Frontiers in psychology , which confirmed that interactions between humans and other species trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone involved in creating bonds and feelings of calm and well-being.

Petting or playing with animals, as well as other forms of physical contact, were the activities measured in this study.

Just as sharing with a dog or cat makes you happy, there is an added benefit. In 2018, the work was distributed in BMC Psychiatryanalyzing this effect in people with long-term mental illness.

In it, it was found that if animals were involved in the process, then in complex tasks, physiological responses to stress were significantly reduced. (high blood pressure, cortisol release, etc.)

Dogs and exercise

Adhering to the species that are commonly found in homes, dogs are ideal for encouraging more active lives in their caregivers. Since they need at least 2 walks a day, they help to abandon a sedentary lifestyle. On average, you can spend up to 160 minutes a week walking your pets outside the home, he notes. JBulletin of Physical Activity and Health .

This indirectly affects health. As noted from American Journal of Preventive Medicine, physical exercise improves mental health and relieves symptoms of illness, such as depression or anxiety. It is also convenient to adapt this physical activity to the environment that is most favorable for the individual.

Pet care and mental health

The very act of caring and taking responsibility also benefits the mind. Actually a book Handbook of Animal Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Practical Recommendations (2016) collects that caring promotes good self-esteem, purposefulness, and a sense of emotional connection.

On the other hand, compassion for animals is also a subject of study; There are several studies that delve into this attitude and the promotion of pro-environmental and pro-social behavior. Thus, the role of animal rescue centers and shelters is highlighted, where hundreds of interactions are generated with them that promote empathy.

Animals alleviate loneliness and provide social support

It is a well-known fact that pets accompany people. However, this has been proven primarily in research animal therapy for the elderly, which indicate that the feeling of loneliness subsides.

In other groups where mental health concerns are also key, such as neurodivergence, animal-assisted therapy has been shown to be effective. For example, on the autism spectrum, they found that animals help improve social-emotional development in infants. with this neurodevelopmental disorder.

Pet, mental health and action to improve the world: an undeniable link

It is logical to think that care activities develop awareness of the environmental and social issues of the environment. Similarly, from this expansion of empathy flow actions to address them, which in turn leads to a greater sense of control and increased self-esteem.

On the other hand, the relationship between empathy for animals and attitudes that promote resilience has been proven in studies such as the one published in Global environmental change. He describes that empathy generated by human-animal interaction generalizes to relationships with the environment. and concern for its preservation.

Pet care has a positive impact

The bottom line of all these conversations is this: pet care has a direct and positive impact on mental health. This effect is manifested through the development of empathy and the release of hormones such as oxytocin, which leads to a more compassionate and prosocial attitude.

Finally, it is worth highlighting ethics in this area. While the benefits that animal company brings are numerous, all this philosophy would be contrary to the establishment of a utilitarian relationship with them. Open-mindedness, empathy, and the end of loneliness are only achieved through sharing the selfless love that makes them who they are.

You may be interested…

All sources cited have been carefully reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, relevance and validity. The bibliography for this article has been deemed reliable and scholarly or scientifically accurate.

  • Bitts, A., Ouvnes-Moberg, K., Julius, H., & Kotrschal, K. (2012). Psychosocial and psychophysiological effects of human-animal interactions: a possible role for oxytocin. Frontiers in psychology3, 234.
  • Brooks, H.L., Rushton, K., Walker, S.L., Lovell, K., & Rogers, A. (2018). Ontological security and bonding provided by pets: A study of the self-management of everyday life in people with chronic mental illness. BMC Psychiatry, 18(1), 1-13.
  • Brown, C., Adger, W. N., Devine-Wright, P., Anderis, J. M., Barr, S., Bousquet, F., … & Quinn, T. (2019). Empathy, place and identity interaction for sustainability. Global environmental change, 56, 11-17.
  • Castro, S. J. (2021). Benefits of exercise for mental health. Magazine Education 4.0, 1(2).
  • Christian H. E., Westgarth K., Bauman A., Richards E. A., Rhodes R. E., Evenson K. R., … & Thorp R. J. (2013). Dog ownership and physical activity: a review of the evidence. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 10(5), 750-759.
  • De la Puente, M. (2017). Reducing Loneliness: Animal Therapy for the Elderly in a Geriatric Home (Thesis, Pontifical Catholic University of Peru). Digital repository of PUCP dissertations and scientific papers.
  • Fine, AH (ed.). (2010). Handbook of Animal Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Practical Recommendations. Academic press.
  • Grigore, A.N., & Bazgan, M. (2017). The influence of animal therapy on the development of social and emotional abilities of children with autism. Bulletin of the Transylvanian University of Brasov. Series VII, Social Sciences and Law., 10(2), 231-238.
  • White, R.L., Babich, M.J., Parker, P.D., Lubans, D.R., Astell-Burt, T., & Lonsdale, K. (2017). Physical activity and mental health in specific areas: a meta-analysis. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 52(5), 653-666.
  • Young, A., Khalil, K.A., & Wharton, J. (2018). Empathy for animals: a review of the existing literature. Curator: Museum Journal, 61(2), 327-343.

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