How owning a pet can improve your mental health

How owning a pet can improve your mental health

Nothing is more central or important to the human experience than our mental health. While it’s beneficial to implement daily practices for your overall well-being, one decision could change your life and the life of an animal for the better. At the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County, we believe that the human experience is enriched by animal companionship. Did you know that adopting a pet offers several mental health benefits (beyond having a cute, furry friend to spend your time with)?  

Pets can help reduce stress

If you explore any college campus around the end of a term, you’ll probably notice several furry friends intermingling with students. A growing number of colleges offer students sessions with therapy dogs to help reduce end-of-year stress, and with good reason. Studies show that after spending time petting and playing with therapy dogs, students reported lower levels of stress and anxiety. Studies also show that the presence of pets in workplaces can reduce stress and increase employee satisfaction. Further research shows that the act of petting a dog or a cat can reduce spikes in blood pressure that even ACE inhibitors are unable to prevent! 

Pets can ease feelings of loneliness

Loneliness is often overlooked as a serious factor in our mental well-being, but it is associated with many serious side effects. Doctors report that patients with heart disease are 68% more likely to be hospitalized if they are experiencing loneliness. Loneliness is also associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and even dementia. One of the best ways to combat loneliness is to adopt a pet. Pets are affectionate, loyal and consistent! They are there for you every day, and more importantly, they need you just as much as you need them. 

Research shows that people with PTSD often experience increased feelings of isolation due to self-judgment and anxiety. Owning and training pets can help ground them and decrease those feelings by providing unconditional companionship. Pets can give us a sense of purpose by providing care and compassion for another living thing, which helps us overcome feelings of loneliness.

Pets help strengthen social skills and meaningful bonds

Not only can owning a pet stave off loneliness, it can also help us create meaningful bonds with other people! If this seems too good to be true, just think about the last time you took your pet to the park or on a walk in a busy area. Did you talk to other pet owners? Having a pet in a social situation can break the ice, which helps many people overcome social obstacles that would otherwise keep them home. Pets are the best wingmen!

Pets can improve self-esteem

There’s no better feeling than getting home and knowing somebody is excited to see you! Have you ever left your pet for five minutes only to find them jumping and wagging their tails when you return? Having somebody who loves you unconditionally and is always excited to see you provides a significant boost to our self-esteem, which helps reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. Research shows that pet owners consistently have higher levels of self-esteem than people without pets. Pet owners also report fewer major fluctuations in self-esteem, meaning they remain more consistently satisfied with their life and self than people without pets. Good self-esteem is essential to our mental well-being. 

Pets positively influence our mental health. They love us unconditionally, provide meaningful companionship and give us a sense of purpose. Pet ownership can help us overcome stresses and anxieties in our lives and give us unlimited joy! 

If you’re looking to add a furry friend to your life, contact us here to set up a meet and greet.

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