During my time spent browsing around the internet, I’ve come across some interesting articles and studies about how owning a pet can benefit both your physical and mental health. After some thought (and a little more research), I think the reason is clear: the companionship a pet brings and responsibilities behind owning a pet is what improves our wellbeing.
Owning a pet gives us more opportunity to exercise and spend time outdoors. Take dogs, for example. You can take a dog for a walk around the neighborhood, play a game of fetch at the park, or have a fun match of tug-of-war in the yard. Taking just a 30 minute walk every day has been proven to prevent weight gain, according to Cris Slentz, Ph.D of the Duke University research team. That’s the perfect length of time for a daily dog walk!
Having a pet has also been shown to prevent some major health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), owning a pet has been found to decrease blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol levels in the body. High blood pressure, triglyceride, and cholesterol can all lead to life-threatening issues, such as a stroke or a heart attack. A pet’s ability to prevent this is likely due to their ability to reduce stress. High stress is something that leads to these issues, but when your cat snuggles up to you on the sofa or you give your dog a good belly rub, stress seems to just melt away.
Owning a pet can also better not just your physical health, but your mental health as well. A pet’s stress-relieving abilities are also the reason many psychiatrists prescribe therapy animals to those who struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses. Therapy animals give the owner something to connect with, take care of, and be loved by, all of which definitely improves mental health.
Pets also give us a way to talk about our problems to someone who won’t judge us. Ever talk to your pet about your problems on a bad day? It’s not crazy, I promise! (I personally like to talk to my betta Hamlet whenever I’m having a stressful day, he makes for a pretty good listener.) Somehow, being able to say what’s on your mind to someone who doesn’t need to speak back seems helps take weight off our chests. As author George Eliot said, “Animals are such agreeable friends. They ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” Even if they can’t respond, having a companion to talk about your day with makes everything seem a little better.
It’s pretty amazing what our pets can do for us! If having a pet is right for you, be sure to check out your local animal shelters for your newest companion. They will better your life in more ways than one!
“Healthy Pets Healthy People.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Apr. 2014, www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/. Accessed 31 Aug. 2017.
Borchard, Therese J. “6 Ways Pets Relieve Depression.” World of Psychology, 28 Jan. 2015, psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/05/19/6-ways-pets-relieve-depression/. Accessed 31 Aug. 2017.
“How stress affects your body and behavior.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 28 Apr. 2016, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987. Accessed 31 Aug. 2017.
Cris A. Slentz, Brian D. Duscha, et.al. "Effects of the Amount of Exercise on Body Weight, Body Composition, and Measures of Central Obesity," Archives of Internal Medicine 2004
Cailin is a student from Northern Arizona University studying English. She hopes to become a publishing editor one day.