Pets are loved around the world. Pets are our faithful companions, they entertain us, and no doubt that they add value to our lives.

More than just making us feel better, there is actually evidence that pets can improve our mental health and wellbeing. Here’s how having a pet helps your mental health.

Reduced anxiety

Anxiety is an issue experienced by many people, affecting over 40 million adults in the US alone. You may feel like the companionship of your furry friend makes you feel calmer and more relaxed, and you would be right. This has even been backed up by research.

Studies have shown that people who have a pet dog are less likely to be diagnosed with anxiety. The very presence of companion animals is comforting and calming, and can also help to build self-confidence. Additionally, people who suffer from anxiety are usually consumed with worry for what may happen in the future. However, our pets help us to live in the moment and enjoy the now, providing a useful antidote.

Help with managing stress

Similarly, pets can also help people to manage stress. Stress is all too common in modern society, whether from work pressures, family commitments, or other reasons. Stress can not only damage emotional wellbeing in the short-term, but can also lead to long term health problems.

One study showed that people with pet dogs had lower levels of cortisol, the hormone known as the stress hormone, while another found that riding and caring for horses does the same. Stroking or petting your pet is a very effective way to provide stress relief: this will instantly lower your blood pressure and help to reduce stress.

Stronger social skills

Not only do we form special bonds with our pets, but they also help us with our other relationships, and so support better wellbeing. There is some evidence that having furry friend strengthens our relationship with our romantic partners, as well as other special people in our lives. This is even true for those with particular social challenges, such children with autism.

One study showed that autistic children whose family had a pet dog were more confident and able to express themselves. It’s difficult to say actually why this is, but it may be that we develop transferrable skills as part of our loving, nurturing relationships with our pets that we can apply to our other relationships. Additionally, pets open doors to new social networks and connections, helping people to make friends and be less isolated.

Ease symptoms of mental illness

Pets can be helpful in not just managing stress and anxiety, but also more severe forms of mental illness. Pet owners with mental conditions such depression, bipolar and schizophrenia report that their pets are one of the most useful things in helping to manage their condition. Pets are helpful because they not only provide comfort, but they also add a sense of security and routine, all vital when managing a mental illness.

Better Sleep

Sleep is vital to or wellbeing: a lack of regular, high-quality sleep can damage our mental as well as physical health. Studies have shown that not only having a pet, but actually sharing a bed with your furry friend can help you to get a good night’s sleep. Dog and cat owners who let their pet share their bed often report that they feel better security and companionship, and so sleep better.

What to consider before you get a pet

If you’re now convinced that a pet will improve your emotional wellbeing – don’t rush out to buy or adopt a new furry friend just yet. There are a few things to consider before you commit to a new pet. A pet is a big responsibility, and you are making a commitment for the rest of their life – which can be 15 years or more in the case of dogs and cats – so you need to be in it for the long haul.

It is also important to look after your pet’s needs such as their diet, exercise and health. Dogs in particular can suffer from health conditions just like humans, from kidney problems to obesity. However, products like Ketogenic dog food can help to manage obesity and other health conditions.

When considering getting a pet, make sure that you choose the right pet for you and your family, taking into account your living situation, life style and budget. For example, a large dog will not be suitable for you if you live in an apartment, but a small dog or smaller animal may be fine. And by budget, we don’t just mean the initial cost of purchasing your pet, but the on-going costs associated with feeding, sheltering and keeping your pet healthy.

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Author, Freelance writer