We Love our Pets for Good Reason
The holiday season might be over, but for some unlucky pets the effects of the season are just beginning. According, to the ASPCA around 6.5 million animals end up end shelters each year. Many, like the Washington Humane Society in D.C., report numbers spike after Christmas due to people dropping off unwanted pets that were presents. This happens each year despite the efforts animal advocacy groups and shelters alike often warn against giving animals as holiday gifts.
Though pets take a lot of responsibility and adoption should always be a carefully planned decision, loving and caring for an animal can actually help improve mental health and happiness. If you’ve been thinking about adding a furry friend to your family, consider these incredible benefits and, perhaps, consider checking out a local animal shelter.
- Pets need routine. No matter what kind of pet is the best fit for you, they all have something in common; they require your care and attention. When an animal needs daily care in the form of feeding, walking, or attention, it can help create a routine and offer a sense of purpose and direction. This kind of structure and loving dependence can create focus and distraction that helps with feelings of purposelessness and other symptoms of depression.
- Pets Reduce Stress. Being around a beloved pet, particularly petting an animal you have a connection with, has a soothing effect that help reduces stress. Studies show petting a dog can lower blood pressure, slow heart rate, reduce muscle tension, regulate breathing patterns, and decrease levels of stress-related hormones in the blood stream. This all points to what any pet owner will tell you, spending time with a cherished animal is relaxing and good for reducing feeling of stress or agitation.
- Pets get you outside and exercising before you know it. Animals, especially dogs, need a lot of interaction. They like to run and play outside and need to burn off excess energy. This means they get their owners up and moving around, even if they don’t realize it. Research has found dog owners tend to take more steps than non-dog owners and one study discovered this could add up to as much as 23 extra minutes of exercise a day. This extra exercise causes the body to release endorphins, and extra time outside means lots of sunshine, which increases serotonin levels in the brain. Both of these hormones can help boost your mood and stave of depression, which can make spending time with your puppy that much more beneficial.
- Pets offer companionship. The affection of a pet can be a huge comfort and dispel feelings of loneliness or isolation that often accompany depression. Animals are very attuned to their owner’s state of mind and can sense when they’re feeling blue. Pets will often react to distress by offering their person comfort and attention.
- Pets teach children valuable lessons. Caring for a pet can be a great experience as a child grows and develops. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, growing up with pets can teach children important lessons about life and death, responsibility, and empathy, as well as respect for other living things. A pet can serve as a loyal playmate, encourage physical exercise, and offer comfort, joy and, emotional support. Aside from the amazing emotional benefits children who grow up in homes with animals are less likely to develop asthma, are at a lower risk for allergies, and are more likely to have a strong immune system.