Many of us have some kind of pet at home – dog, cat, hamster or maybe fish. Still, we rarely wonder what psychological benefits our pet company can bring us. According to some researchers, the emotional connection between a pet and a person can be as strong as with another person and can therefore bring similar psychological benefits. Although research on human-animal interactions is still relatively new, some of them confirms the importance of pets in our lives. Therefore, today I present 5 facts about the psychological benefits provided by pets.
- Pets can help reduce stress and tension. Being with your pet, playing with your dog, cat or hamster, gazing at a fish aquarium we often notice a decrease in anxiety and tension. This is because we experience physiological changes in our bodies. In particular, our body decreases the stress hormone cortisol, serotonin, and dopamine levels increase. The release of these hormones helps to calm down, relaxes the nervous system, gives us a good mood, and increases energy. In addition, it has been observed that petting and hugging animals can help to lower blood pressure and calm down quickly after a tense and stressful situation. In one study, a group of adults was asked to pet a rabbit, turtle, or a plush toy after a stressful situation. Touching the toy had no effect, but petting the rabbit or turtle helped reduce the anxiety. In addition, even people who said they did not like animals benefited and calmed down more quickly by petting the animals during the study.
- Pets can improve our mood. By spending time with our pets, interacting, and playing with them, we can lift our mood. Sometimes it’s enough to look at your pet and we smile. Studies have shown that eye contact with your dog can lead to the release of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone is sometimes called the hormone of love and helps us experience a sense of happiness. Studies have shown that owners who pet their dogs by looking them in the eyes have a 300% increase in oxytocin levels in the body, and pets have a 130% increase in oxytocin. This suggests that this interaction is not one-sided.
- Pets support us! Living with a pet means that you are not always alone at home, and taking care of your pet makes you feel needed and important. Therefore, it is often argued that people who raise animals are less likely to experience a feeling of loneliness. In addition, pets can help make new acquaintances and friendships. Dog owners can meet new people during walks or hikes. Pet owners can also make new acquaintances in pet stores and training sessions. As a result, pet owners are often more social, which contributes to aspects of mental health such as higher self-esteem, lower levels of anxiety and depression, and higher levels of happiness.
- Pets help us develop healthy habits. We need to take care of our pets every day, which can help us develop healthy habits. Dog owners should take their pets outside regularly. Also, some dog owners go out with their pet for a run, go to training, on hikes etc. In this way, dog owners not only spend more time outdoors but also often implement the requirements of daily physical activity, which contributes to both physical and mental well-being. Daily dog walking can help us lose weight. A study by the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction found that subjects who walked with therapeutic dogs 5 days a week lost an average of ~ 6.5 kilograms per year without changing their diet. Finally, dogs need to be taken outside at a similar time each morning, cats and other animals need to be fed at a similar time in the morning, which can help maintain a regular sleep pattern. This is especially important in terms of mental health.
- Pets help us heal. It has been observed that close communication with your dog helps to recover faster for people who have heart, nervous and mental illnesses, and to recover faster after operations. Nevertheless, researchers have found that not only dogs, but also pets such as cats, hamsters, parrots, or even fish can help individuals with mental health problems. Studies have shown that for people diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, their pets helped to better control the disease and its symptoms, and contributed to better emotional control. In addition, caring for a pet gave these people a sense of control, security, and helped create an agenda.
So, how does your pet help you?