Pets As Therapy: How Animals Can Help Improve Mental Health

pet therapy how animals improve mental health pets fight loneliness

The UK’s a nation of animal lovers, right? Research has discovered that almost 50% of the British homes have a pet, with just over 1 in 4 owning a dog, and nearly 1 in 5 owning a cat. ‘Why?’ you ask. Well, a whopping 90% of pet owners have confirmed that having an animal at home makes them happy while 88% also state that it improves their overall quality of life. 

In this interesting guide, we explore as to why this may be the reason: 

Combat Depression 

Animals can provide love and comfort – both of which you often feel are without if you’re depressed. By owning a pet, you can feel like you have a sense of worth. This is because you will have a regular schedule, knowing that it’s up to you to feed and work your pet, giving you a sense of purpose and a routine. 

Taking your pet for a walk also contributes to physical activity, which can consequently help in combating depression. However, you must make sure that you are financially stable, otherwise having another living being dependent on your income may lead to unnecessary stress. 

Provide Companionship 

Being lonely is one of the biggest issue that Britain faces. According to figures, most people will feel lonely at some point in their lives and currently 1.9 million older people in the UK feel ignored or invisible. Loneliness is said to be as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. To combat this, many care homes are bringing animals in for sessions to help stimulate conversation between residents. One Reading care home has veered away from the usual dog and cat offering and brought alpacas in as part of their therapy and enriching activities.

Calming Presence 

Often in life, whatever you’re doing, you need to just take a step back and relax. Certain educational establishments have noticed this and have started bringing dogs in around exam season. Newcastle College’s Ofsted report praised the student support facility by recognising methods to optimise the learning environment. 

Researchers suggest that those students who play with dogs enjoy increased happiness levels, while their level of stress plunges, sometimes for up to 10 hours! The idea behind the concept is that students are allowed to pet, cuddle and chat to the animals. Researchers discovered that this activity enabled students’ stress levels to drop by 45%, meaning that, they were more relaxed during the stress of exam season. 

Autism 

People with autism frequently struggle with sensory issues. Animals such as dogs and horses can help those with autism get used to how something smells, sounds or feels. It’s believed that children who have autism find working with animals a calming experience and it can help increase their desire and ability to connect with others in a social environment. 

Pets And Children With ADHD 

It isn’t just adults that whose mental state of mind can be helped by animals. Studies have found that children with ADHD can also benefit from having a pet. This is due to them taking on the duties to look after the animal and thus learning how to plan and be responsible. 

Like how owning a pet can assist in fighting depression, the physical exercise aspect needed for most pets can enable your child to burn off excessive energy, allowing them to become calmer as the day progresses. Sometimes, kids with ADHD struggle to communicate and animals can be great listeners, helping children air their issues while aiding their self-confidence. 

Obviously, not everyone loves animals but the stats clearly show that animals can certainly be a human’s best friend in more ways than one!

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