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How Animals in Our Lives Could be Affecting Our Mental Health

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How Animals Could be Affecting

It’s well known that animals can bring happiness and enjoyment to our lives, but they may also be doing more than we realize in terms of the state of our mental health. Studies have shown that pets can help lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, and even increase your chances of survival after a heart attack! If you’re looking to improve your mental health without taking medication or committing to therapy, your furry friends may be just what you need. Here are some studies on how animals can affect your mental health.

Animals and Depression

Seeing a dog or cat can help improve your mood, but it can also have a big impact on your physical health. A 2012 study found that pet owners tend to live longer than people who don’t own pets. Researchers say owning pets may lead to better heart health—our hearts beat faster when we see an animal, and over time, it may help keep them strong. There’s also evidence that dogs and cats can boost self-esteem and make people feel more relaxed. Still, researchers caution against getting a pet as therapy. Seeing a therapist is always recommended first for treating depression and anxiety disorders; in fact, many studies show that therapy paired with medication is most effective at treating depression or anxiety.

Color Kittens

Animals and Stress

Having a pet can help lower your stress levels, according to a study from North Carolina State University. Researchers found that individuals who owned pets had lower stress levels than those who didn’t—and even lower than those with depression. People also reported feeling less lonely and more independent when they owned pets. And as a bonus: animal companionship is good for overall physical health, too. Studies have shown that pet owners tend to be healthier and happier overall, which is something to purr about!

Animals Help Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

In 2013, a study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science showed that children with ASD can improve their abilities to recognize emotions and facial expressions by interacting with and caring for a pet. For example, a child may learn how to interpret facial expressions from an animal better than from observing peers or older family members. Dogs are especially effective for kids on the spectrum—and there’s even evidence that therapy dogs can improve behavior and enhance social skills. Children with autism who participated in therapy sessions with dogs reported improved stress levels, sleep patterns, blood pressure, and attention spans—in addition to increased ability to follow directions, reduced disruptive behaviors, and improvements when it came to making eye contact.

White Bird on Picking Food

Pets Help with Loneliness

If you are feeling lonely, getting a pet may help. They provide companionship and increase social connections, both of which reduce feelings of loneliness and depression. A 2013 study by researchers at Brigham Young University found that people who live alone with pets were less lonely than people without pets or those living with family members, friends, or significant others. Just knowing that somebody was there with me... I think that made me feel safer and more secure, a 22-year-old participant told researchers from Brigham Young University. I would say it was just like having a friend, but it's not human. The findings support previous research suggesting that lonely individuals benefit from nonhuman contacts like pets as well as close relationships with other humans.

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Animals are Good for People with Dementia

People who have dementia may feel less lonely and depressed because of their animal friends. People with dementia tend to get less lonely as time goes on, but loneliness can come back again when a person loses his or her pet. For people who don't have dementia, living with an animal improves mood and well-being. A new study suggests that pets can even improve memory. Although it hasn't been proven that pets are good for people with Alzheimer's disease, having an animal can increase the quality of life for both owner and pet. Pets help bring more meaning to life and improve physical strength, endurance, cardiovascular function, bone density, blood pressure levels, and balance. Owning a dog lowers your risk of heart attack by 30 percent!

White Goat Leaning

Your Pet can Support Your Recovery From an Illness

We all know how animal therapy can help people with disabilities or medical conditions. Research shows that simply interacting with pets and other animals can even help those of us who are healthy feel better. Simply petting a dog, for example, has been shown to reduce blood pressure and stress levels—and increase overall feelings of well-being. If you’re thinking about adopting a new furry friend, it’s important to keep your pet’s needs in mind; if you already have a fur baby, consider getting them some company so they don’t get lonely. And whether or not you have pets, remember that spending time caring for them—walking them and brushing their coats—can also improve your mood and make you feel more at ease around others.

People Who Adopt a Pet Live Longer

A study from North Carolina State University has shown that those who have pets live longer than those who don’t. The reason? Physical activity provided by walking and playing with a pet reduces blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, which helps reduce cardiovascular disease risk, says Linda Waite, professor of sociology at NCSU. Pets are more likely to get their owners up off of their couches and move around too! This can significantly lower your risk for heart attack or stroke. If you’re thinking about adopting a new furry friend soon, now is a great time to do it—as April is National Pet Month!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Ghulam Nabi Memon

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