Over the past few years I have seen an increased focus on mental health. We are no longer content to sit back and let the mental health of ourselves or others be pushed to the wayside. We know looking after our needs are important – but it’s hard to know what we can do to improve it.

I think that one of the best things for improving mental health are pets. Anyone who has had a pet while we navigate lockdown and the pandemic would agree. So why are they so great?

How Pets Improve Our Mental Health

1. Having A Purpose

If you have no where to go, nothing to do and no one to see then it can be hard to get out of bed in the morning. Things that used to occupy your time may no longer matter and you find your days lacking purpose.

When you have a pet they are relying on you. You have to provide meals, keep them clean and happy. In doing so your own morale and sense of self worth is boosted. By starting the day on a meaningful and purposeful note then it helps you stay in that mindset for the rest of the day.

Structure and routine work well for many people, and pets mean we naturally find a routine that works for us. Meal times, walks, grooming all need scheduled in at appropriate times and that continues the feeling of being needed and wanted.

A cat on its back on a persons knee having its stomach scratched
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2. Sensory Stress Relief

Finding ways to wind down and destress is so important, and I love the way that animals can play a part in that. Stroking a dog or cat (or even a rabbit, guinea pig or any other pet) helps to instantly lower your blood pressure which makes you feel calmer and less stressed. They are a great way to treat anxiety naturally. You will soon associate your pet with comfort and stress relief, and you may find that by even looking at custom animal illustration of your pet will provide a calming effect. You can get one made at Vector Pets, either for yourself or for someone you love.

This is the reason that pet therapy exists. In hospitals and care homes pets that are specially trained to be able to stay calm are brought in for people to stroke and play with. It boosts their mood and raises morale.

3. Finding Joy And Social Interactions

Dogs and cats in particular tend to encourage playfulness, and we all know that smiling and laughter is good for your soul. You can talk and play with your pets, but they also encourage you to get out more. When walking a dog you are more likely to see other people, kick starting your social contact for the day. You may just say hello as you pass them by, or if you go to the same spots regularly they might become familiar faces which you can have a chat with as the dogs stretch their legs. It keeps you connected to the world outside your home.

A woman walking down a lane with a dog on a lead
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4. Increase Exercise

There are many anecdotal reports on how increased exercise is good for mental health. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression or just having a bad day then a workout can make a big difference. The endorphins released as you exercise boost your mind and get you in a better frame of mind. It can be hard to be motivated to workout, but if you have a dog that needs a walk then you have to go. The fresh air and getting your blood pumping is good for your general health as well as mental health.

5. Companionship

Sometimes you just don’t want to be alone. Having someone to talk to is beneficial for all of us, and it doesn’t matter if that someone is a cat or dog or turtle. Just knowing they are there can be enough. It doesn’t make you a crazy cat lady – it makes you a human being.

Of course having a pet isn’t always easy. It is a commitment you have to think through thoroughly rather than jumping straight in. If you do your research you will likely find there is a pet that is suited to you. You may find that adopting a dog from a rescue centre is exactly what you need to complement an outdoors lifestyle, or something smaller like a guinea pig or hamster. Whatever you choose, it is sure to change improve your lifestyle and change your mental health for the better.

This post was sponsored by Vector Pets.

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