dog's head relaxing on sofa

Written by Suzana Talevski

Have you ever gone through a rough patch in your life or just had an off day and realised on reflection how much of a positive role your pet played in helping you feel better?

A range of research shows that contact with animals can improve our well-being and state of mental health. Many studies have found that caring for and having contact with pets encouraged owners to spend more time outdoors and socialise, added meaning to their lives and generally enriched and enhanced their sense of wellbeing.

Pets make excellent companions, they're also good for your mental health. However, if you are really struggling to look after yourself, talk to your doctor before you take on caring for a pet.

If your medical professional agrees a pet may be beneficial to you, there are many animal shelters in Australia that have dogs and cats in need of a home. By adopting a companion from a shelter, you are giving an animal a second chance at a happy and fulfilled life and knowing that in itself is a happy little endorphin boost. 

How pets can help with mental health:

1. Pets reduce stress

Research shows that just patting a pet can ease stress and reduce blood pressure. It can also help you relax and practice mindfulness.

2. Pets provide companionship

Pets can be affectionate, accepting, loyal, and consistent. If you feel isolated with little support, a pet can help reduce your loneliness.

3. Pets require routine and organisation

Pets require a routine of feeding, cleaning and exercise. This can give you purpose and motivation which can help your self-esteem, wellbeing and mental health.

5. Pets provide a sense of purpose

A pet can provide you with a sense of purpose, which may improve mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. If you have a pet, you are never alone and you are also responsible for looking after them.

6. Pets increase your social interaction

Pets create opportunities for better social interaction. Going to pet-friendly events, beaches or parks can also help increase your social network and even help you make new friends.

7. Pets improve your fitness

If you own a dog, they need regular walks, and this exercise is good for you too. Exercise, like walking, has many benefits for your mental health and wellbeing. You can also use the time walking your dog to improve your fitness and make the most of the outdoors to help you further develop mindfulness and relaxation.

Remember, being a pet in your life is a big decision. Weigh up what works for you and make your decision a responsible one.

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