Even before the pandemic, many people already suffered from some type of mental health condition. Anxiety was one of the leading disorders, with over four million (nearly 21 per cent) locals affected, according to market research company Roy Morgan. When the nationwide lockdown was imposed in June 2020, the numbers spiked to over 1 million at roughly 5.5 million (approximately 26 per cent).
To cope with the mental distress from all the restrictions, many sought the companionship of animals, resulting in a sudden increase in pet ownership rates in the entire country. But why animals?
Pets and Mental Health Go Together
Scientific studies that have explored the human and animal bond suggest there are mental and physical benefits to owning a pet. Whether it’s a Border Collie Kelpie Cross pup or Maine Coon kitten, having an animal around is said to help release a happy hormone called oxytocin. By helping boost the mood, feelings of anxiety or stress are reduced. But how else can owning a pet help those who suffer from mental distress?
#1 By Providing Companionship
One of the main causes of anxiety is the fear of living or being alone. Pets provide companionship, assuring people with stress issues that they are safe. By having a furry friend to cuddle and play with when they are not feeling their best, anxious individuals have something to divert their attention to.
If you live alone and are often feeling uneasy, interacting with a pet can help relieve boredom or loneliness. Animals are good listeners and they do not talk back, so you always have a pal to share your thoughts, emotions, and even problems with. Best of all, you will have a buddy to greet you with a wagging tail, a soft purr, or a cheerful chirp when you come home from a taxing day at work.
#2 By Making You Feel Needed
Sometimes, anxiety is caused by having not much to do during your spare time but overthink. This is when a pet becomes a lifesaver - it adds structure to your day and gives you a sense of purpose.
While the idea of caring for another living creature may seem like an added stressor to your daily life, it often isn’t. Sure, pets need to be fed, exercised, and cared for, but these are the reasons that make an anxious person more inclined to step up their game. The truth is, having a routine helps you become more responsible and stable - both of which can boost your sense of self-worth.
#3 By Helping You Live a Healthier Lifestyle
While physical exercise does not really work with birds, fishes, and similar pets, they do with four-legged pals. Having a dog, cat, or rabbit that you can take outside a few times a day may help with your anxiety.
This is because going out, especially in the morning, increases your intake of Vitamin D which is known to possibly help improve mental health. This vitamin has neuroprotective properties that support brain cell activity. Aside from this, regular exercise with a pet is suggested to release natural endorphins and brain chemicals that make you feel good and take your mind off worries.
#4 By Keeping You Connected with Others
The older a person gets, the fewer friends, relatives, and coworkers they get to see. Losing touch with people whom you used to spend a lot of time with can result in anxiety.
If you live alone, caring for a pet is a great way to get your optimism and zest for life back. This is because having a buddy, like a dog, to walk around the block every day can help you make new friends. It can also spark conversations with strangers about getting into pet clubs or training classes where you can meet more people that share your passion for animals.