Pets and our mental health

The pandemic and the resulting lockdown has proved a challenge for many people's mental health. Pets have played a huge part in our lives being companions and keeping so many of us active. Here we explore in more detail the link between our furry (or not so furry) friends and our mental wellbeing.

The rise of loneliness and overall mental health issues during the pandemic has really brought to light the value that pets can bring into our lives. They give us love, attention, a sense of purpose and help provide us with a routine. Here are some of the ways having a pet can benefit your mental health:

They help build a routine

Sticking to a daily routine, especially during lockdown, can be quite tricky. Fortunately, our pets don’t quite understand what a national lockdown is, therefore will still need feeding, regular exercise and care, all things that require a solid routine.

Having a daily routine is really important to give you a sense of purpose and normality, even when there’s not much to do. It’s important to get out of bed and start the day with a bit of positivity. Having a pet can really help you do this!

They provide companionship 

Did you know that according to a British Red Cross study, even before lockdown over 9 million people (almost a fifth of the population) said they always or often feel lonely?

Pets provide great company and someone to share your days with. If you’re suffering from loneliness, a pet can provide a sense of security and they are also great listeners! 

They give you a sense of purpose

People can often struggle, especially during these difficult times we’ve experienced recently, with having a purpose. Having a pet can really change that. 

There’s something about having a pet that relies on you which can give you a sense of purpose. Having a pet can also help people who suffer from depression, as even when you’re experiencing a down day, you still need to feed, walk, clean and nurture your pet.

Pets can generally help motivate you to be more productive than you would be without one. Having a dog can encourage you to get outside and exercise by taking your furry friend for a walk. This can be particularly beneficial for people with depression. 

They ease your stress levels 

Pets have been proven to help reduce stress and anxiety levels in a number of different ways. They can provide a great sense of comfort as well as a physical calming effect. Stroking, cuddling or even just being in an animal’s presence can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, two chemical messengers that your body releases which make you feel happier. This can lead to sensory stress relief and can even lower your blood pressure. 

Overall wellbeing 

Pets can be so beneficial to your overall wellbeing and even life-changing for some. HABRI recently conducted a survey and found that 74% of owners say that having a pet has improved their mental health. In addition to this, 76% said they could cope a bit better with everyday life thanks to the company of their pet.

It’s important to remember that, whilst pets can have huge mental health benefits, owning a pet comes with a great deal of responsibility. Before deciding to take on a pet, it’s important to research what type of pet is right for you and the commitment required. Once you have made the best choice, the benefits and fun they bring can be endless.