26 Aug The Mood Boosting Power of Pets
It’s no surprise that you feel better after spending time with your pet. But it’s not just a superficial feeling – pets have real power to help boost your mood and increase your quality of life. From improving your mental health to proven boosts to your physical health, owning a pet can help you live a longer, happier life.
From the calm you feel watching a fish swimming in an aquarium, to the extra walking you put in to keep your pooch happy – there are many ways a pet can help you boost your mood and increase your health.
There’s no better mood booster than getting some fresh air – especially if your companion is a pooch who is beside themselves with delight at being outside and spending time with you. Having a pet boosts your physical activity, giving you an additional reason to go for that daily walk or run, spend time in the backyard playing games, and generally moving around. Even jobs like cleaning the fish tank and hauling food helps keep you on the move, which all adds up to better health, and a better mood in the long run.
There’s plenty we can learn from our furry friends, and being present and mindful is a vitally important lesson that they can help us with. Dr. Ann Berger, a physician and researcher at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, works with terminally ill patients and incorporates animals in her therapies.
“The foundations of mindfulness include attention, intention, compassion, and awareness,” Berger says. “All of those things are things that animals bring to the table. People kind of have to learn it. Animals do this innately.”
It’s not just our mood that can be boosted by pets – our physical health can show real improvement as well. The ownership of pets, especially dogs, has been linked to a reduced risk for heart disease and a longer life. Along with lower blood pressure in stressful situations and lowered rates of depression, playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of the hormones serotonin and dopamine, which provide feelings of happiness, calm and relaxation.
Structure and Routine
Pets provide a need to implement structure and routine which can have positive impacts on their humans. From teaching children the importance of caring for an animal properly to helping people with mental health issues create a reliable routine, pets help create a structured environment for people which can help them feel calm and motivated. No matter how stressed or anxious you might feel, completing small tasks for your animals helps you to keep on top of the day.
From Young to Old.
It doesn’t matter how old or young you are – having a pet can help. Owning a pet can encourage social and emotional development in children. Children who own a pet are often calmer, have more focus, are less likely to face behavioural difficulties and are more likely to show pro-social behaviour such as sharing and cooperating.
Pets can help the elderly as well. From the general reductions in stress levels, loneliness and poor health outcomes, pet owners who are over the age of 65 make as many as 30% fewer visits to their doctors than those who do not own a pet.
Pets help make you happier and healthier, put you in a better mood and can even help you to live longer. Whether it’s the physical benefits of increased movement and activity or the soothing tactile sensory experience of giving lots of pats and cuddles, there’s nothing quite like a pet for helping keep you in routine and feeling positive.
From prisons to schools to end of life care, animal therapy has been shown to help keep people calm and happy, giving them a reason to develop a routine and relationships. There’s no better reason to give your pet a hug – you know they deserve it, and the science shows you’ll both feel better.