They are always happy to see us, never judge us, and are always down for a cuddle. It is no wonder that pets have been shown to have a positive impact on mental health. In fact, the CDC even recognizes pet ownership as a way to support mental health. From service animals to emotional support animals to good ol’ fashioned pets, here are some ways our furry friends support our mental health.

Reduce Stress

One of the most common ways that pets can help support our mental health is by reducing stress. In one study, 60% of participants reported lower stress levels after interacting with their pets. One of the reasons for this could be that interacting with animals’ releases oxytocin in the brain—the “cuddle hormone” that also reduces anxiety and fear. 

Whether it is taking a break to play with your dog or snuggling up with your cat, spending time with a pet can help to lower your cortisol levels (the stress hormone). A few minutes of quality time with a pet can offer a much-needed respite from work, school, or other stressful situations. When we have something (or someone) to focus on outside of ourselves, it can take the pressure off of day-to-day stressors.

Combat Depression and Lonely feelings

Depression can leave us feeling isolated and lonely but spending time with a pet can help to ease those feelings. In one study, senior citizens who owned pets were less likely to report feelings of loneliness than those who did not own pets. Pets can provide much-needed companionship and unconditional love when we are feeling down. Walking or playing with a pet can also help to increase levels of serotonin—a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood regulation—in the brain.

Additionally, taking care of another living creature can give us a sense of purpose and satisfaction—two more key elements in warding off depression. Caring for a pet, by feeding them Health Extension® pet food, can help give us structure and routine, both of which are important in managing mental health disorders like depression.

Improve Heart Health

Owning a pet has also been linked with improved heart health. One study showed that dog owners had lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than those who did not own dogs. Another study found that pet owners were more likely to survive a heart attack than those without pets.

These benefits may be due to the increased social interaction and physical activity that comes with owning a pet. Walking or playing with a dog is a great form of exercise, and it gets us out of the house and interacting with other people—all factors that contribute to heart health.

Reduced Anxiety

Pets can also be beneficial for those suffering from anxiety disorders. Studies have shown that interacting with animals can help to decrease anxiety symptoms and improve coping skills. Therapeutic animal programs are even being used in some hospitals and clinics to provide patients with anxiety relief. If you suffer from anxiety, consider spending some time with a friend's pet or volunteering at an animal shelter.

Increased Social Support

Pets can also provide much-needed social support. According to one study, people who owned pets were more likely to perceive social support from their animal companions than from human beings. Other research has found that people who live alone and own pets are less likely to experience feelings of isolation and loneliness than those who do not own pets.

Improved Mental Well-Being

Pets can also improve your overall mental well-being. One study found that pet owners had lower levels of depression and fewer psychological problems than non-pet owners. Another study found that people who recently acquired a pet were more likely to report increased self-esteem and self-compassion than those who did not get a pet.

If you are looking for a way to improve your mental health, adding a furry friend to your life may be a good place to start. Pets can provide emotional support, social interaction, and boost your overall well-being. So, whether you are looking for a canine companion or a cuddly cat, consider getting a pet—your mind will thank you for it! Stock up on Health Extension Pet Food and you will be set!

November 28, 2022 — Tamara Slaughter-Cerven