Animals can improve your social skills and physical health, but did you know that they are also good for your mental health? It is becoming increasingly popular for animals to be used as part of therapy and throughout addiction rehabilitation.
Isolation and loneliness can trigger symptoms of depression and anxiety. During the pandemic, these emotions have heightened, with 25 million people in the UK reported feeling lonely or disconnected. Animals are a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation, often helping us improve our mental wellbeing without even realising it.
Companionship not only helps to prevent symptoms of depression and loneliness, but it can also lower the risk of long-term health problems. Research has shown that owning a pet is associated with reducing your risk of heart disease and helps lower unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Interacting with animals can be a great way to help ease mental health issues, in particular with stress and anxiety. When petting or playing with your companion, your stress-related hormones reduce. Studies have shown that these benefits can occur after just five minutes of interacting with your pet.
Interacting with animals raises our feel-good hormones called endorphins. These include serotonin and dopamine, the hormones that calm and relax the nervous system. When we begin to smile, laugh or converse with our pets, we experience feelings of happiness, relaxation, overall mood improvements, and lower symptoms of anxiety.
Working with animals can play a role in easing the symptoms of conditions that co-occur with ADHD. 1.5 millionpeople in the UK live with ADHD, a disorder that makes it difficult to focus and control impulses. While there are many approaches to treating this disorder in adults and children, equine therapy has proven successful.
Interacting with horses can help individuals gain confidence and eliminate problem behaviours such as inattention and lack of focus. Research revealed that children with ADHD show clear signs of improved motor skills, behaviour and academic performance, including social and communication skills after taking part in equine therapy.
Animals are extremely helpful for people who find it challenging to socialise and communicate with others. Pets help to act as a type of communication bridge between individuals, providing people with something to interact about with others. Looking after your pet as a hobby gives you the chance to socialise with other people and keeps you from feeling withdrawn.
This has been predominant within children with autism. Research reveals that children with autism who have a pet have much more advanced social skills and are more assertive and communicative than those who do not have a pet.
Animals require a lot of attention and hard work. As a result, they help us build healthier habits and routines. Dogs, in particular, need daily exercise to stay healthy and happy. Owners must ensure that their pet has regular exercise sessions to maintain a healthy weight.
Being physically active outdoors has been shown to reduce stress, anger, depression and improve overall mental and physical health. The sunshine naturally increases serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood, while exercise produces endorphins, which boost your mood and reduce symptoms of pain.