This week in the UK is Mental awareness week 18th to 24th May and this year they are focussing on Stress.
I believe this is such an important topic and I think pets can help you through the bad times and definitely have a link to our mental health. This year more than any with the lockdown in place people will have been feeling isolated, depressed, and lonely. How many of you have felt having your dog, cat, or other pet at home is helping you through all this.
Research as shown that two-thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes and the common factor is stress. If we can get Stress under control this can go a long way to tackling mental health problems such as worry and depression.
They say a certain amount of stress is necessary and even good for us but it is how we cope with the stress that seems to be important to how badly it affects us.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, dogs are our heroes they offer us unconditional love are there for us when others are not, they truly are our best friends.
How do our dogs help us with our Mental health and reducing stress?
Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, and improve our health overall.
Dogs give us a reason to go out and exercise, dogs need exercise, so we go out with them too and give us that reason to get out of that house and breathe in some fresh air. Exercise increases endorphins which help to fight depression.
Because pets especially need to go out and exercise, need care, and need feeding at regular intervals this helps us build a routine instead of it being a one-off activity. Research has shown that having a routine can help reduce stress levels and lead to better sleep patterns as I’m sure some of you have noticed that during the current COVID situation where we have had no routine our sleeping pattern has been completely out of sync.
Dogs give us a reason to talk to people, other dog owners when in the park, people may stop and chat about our dogs, or just say good morning as we pass. This can help to ease the loneliness you can feel at any time but especially at the moment. Socialization with others especially face to face remembering the 2-meter rule at the moment has been shown to ease symptoms of depression.
Having a dog or cat in the household can prevent depression from worsening as giving care to an animal gives you a purpose, a reason to get up in the mornings, it can also make you feel needed and wanted and stops you from concentrating too much on your worries and depression.
Dogs will be there for you too.
Someone to spend the day with and make us feel loved. They can pick up on our emotions, knowing when we are down and can read our body language much better than we can read there’s and then give us that extra comfort if we begin to feel low, maybe snuggling up to us at these times. Dogs can even be there as someone to talk to, you don’t have to worry about confidentiality or judgment, and they are amazingly comforting and supportive. The next time you find yourself like me chatting away to your dog remind yourself it is a good thing and its actually helping your health.
Dogs can make us feel proud which in turn improves our self-esteem for example if we train our dogs a new trick and practice it whilst out on the park and other people comment on it or just smile as they walk past it really gives us a boost.
Dogs can keep you calm especially those with anxiety and can add comfort to our lives. Research as shown that just simply being with a pet can lower stress hormones.
Dogs bring happiness into our lives and depression is often no match for the unconditional love and joy they provide.
I would always talk to your doctor or mental health provider before getting a pet as you do need to be able to make sure that you can provide for them it does have to be a 2-way street.
The ideal situation though is you and your pet looking after each other, the way it is supposed to be.