3 Ways Owning A Pet Can Give You A Mental Health Boost

A full 74 percent of pet owners feel that their mental health has been improved by their relationship with their animal pal. While pet ownership is not for everyone, it is worth taking a look at the ways connecting with and caring for an animal can have a positive impact on human mental health. 

1. Providing Companionship

The first and most obvious benefit that pet ownership provides is the benefit of companionship, which is actually a surprisingly powerful one, especially for people who suffer from mental health challenges that may make human connection more difficult or more fraught, with many people with mental illness ranking their pets as among their most supportive connections.

Studies have shown that people feel less lonely and less anxious after interacting with animals, and that spending time with animals can lead to the release of mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters like oxytocin and reduce the levels of stress hormones like cortisol. This can translate to other physical signs of relaxation found in humans who have spent time with animals, like slower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and more relaxed muscles. 

Other research has shown that connecting with pets can increase feelings of belonging while decreasing feelings of rejection, and that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression and more likely to have higher self-esteem.

2. Holding You Accountable

Along with providing crucial companionship, pets can provide their owners with a sense of responsibility and accountability that can help them manage their mental health. Having to feed and care for a pet can be a powerful reason for someone who may be struggling to get out of bed in the morning, and can help pet owners to develop and stick to their own routines while making them feel more secure, in control, and needed.

Aside from other aspects of routine that animals can help with, dogs in particular can aid their owners by getting them moving with walks, in a more consistent and supportive way than do human workout buddies. One study found walking therapy dogs for up to 20 minutes a day helped public housing residences lose almost fifteen pounds in a year, while another found that people walked an average of 30 minutes more a day after getting a dog.

3. Helping You To Connect With Humans
Cute cat sleeping in woman arms. Cat napping in warm blanket. Human and cats love and trust concept

Of course, as rewarding bonding with animals can be, a balanced life includes both animal and human companionship. But owning a pet can help give you opportunities to connect with other people, as you can bond with fellow pet owners in environments like dog parks or training classes or even in the virtual world on websites for pet owners. Walking a dog can also make you more approachable and encourage others to connect to you, providing a built-in topic of conversation for an introduction. 

Another unique benefit of animal as opposed to human companionship is the lack of judgment and unconditional love and positivity that animals can provide. Along with being valuable for it own sake, this helps some pet owners to deepen their capacity for human connections as they develop self-confidence and trust through their relationship with more accepting animals. 

Of course, owning a pet is a big responsibility, and only one you should undertake if you are truly ready to make the commitment and have the money, time, and inclination to do so. If you do not, you can still reap some of the benefits of animal companionship by hanging out with the pets of your friends and loved ones, or perhaps by fostering an animal or volunteering at a shelter. 

Since patients in an intensive outpatient program like the one we offer in Delray Beach Florida are not required to live on site, having a pet could certainly be a part of their program of holistic wellness and a part of their recovery journey. Our clients also get the opportunity to interact with animals through the equine facilitated psychotherapy we offer, which teaches clients how to have healthier human attachments through their work in bonding with equine partners. To learn more about our program, feel free to call us anytime at 833.637.033 or to contact us online here.