It has long been known that pet ownership has a positive correlation with one’s psychical and mental health. Pet owners have been shown in clinical studies to benefit from reduced anxiety, stress and depression. In particular, there is also a strong correlation between pet interaction and hypertension relief (by reducing muscle tension and pulse rate.)
But how does all this work? That is what we will be exploring today!
A pet can provide unconditional affection and companisonship. They are also completely non-judgmental (although cat owners such as myself may find this hard to believe!) The social interactions we have with our pets (patting them, looking at them, playing with them and talking to them for instance) stimulate similar parts of the brain to when we interact with other people. These activities also have a strong calming effect (through the serotonin and dopamine released through said sensory interactions.)
If you live on your own or are experiencing prolonged periods of isolation, interacting with your pets can help alleviate loneliness and fulfil your social needs! Pets can also provide you common ground to socialise with others (even online!) You can broaden or maintain your social network by bonding with people with a shared interest in your favourite kind of pet.
In addition, pets often encourage activity and exercise (as many require walks, play or vigorous cleaning) which can get you some much needed fresh air to boot! Pet care routines (feeding, playing, toilet needs, etc.) also can help to ground you and are an implicit reminder of your own health. Maintaining this routine of care can help to provide structure and a sense of control and order in your life, which can be very beneficial during times such as these.
Finally, the benefits from pets don’t just apply to dogs or cats alone: similar results have been replicated with pets such as fish. Children during imaginative play with stuffed animals experience similar benefits too!