Sydney clinical psychologist Dr Leigh Plummer worked with PetSafe Australia to come up with the top five reasons why having a pet helps us feel less stressed and anxious and lifts our mood:
1. Increases physical activity
Being a pet owner can lead to more engaging and physical activity.
“Whether you are being more active with a pet in the home, or getting out and about, having a pet can increase your level of exercise which, in turn,has been shown to improve mood, decrease stress, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and enhance physical fitness,” says Dr Plummer.
2. Increases social interaction and removes isolation anxiety
Pet ownership can help to boost social interactions and lower isolation issues.
It provides an opportunity to connect with others face to face and on social media.
“Incidental conversations with strangers about your pets can take place on a walk, at the dog park or even on a Facebook Community Pet Group,” says Dr Plummer.
3. Provides companionship and reduces loneliness in the home
Pets provide 24/7 companionship which helps to increase mood and reduce loneliness for people who live alone.
The unconditional love that a pet can give is often a relief to those who have difficulty interacting with others or have low self esteem.
4. Boosts mood by providing routine and purpose
Owning a pet provides a person with daily routines, which, in turn, can boost mood and help stop them feeling sad.
“It’s not only what our pets do for us, it is also the act of caring for a pet that helps us to feel good,” says Dr Plummer. “Giving and caring for others can feel productive and be rewarding. We may also feel useful and needed. Caring for a pet may also temporarily take the focus off ourselves, our worries and negative thoughts.”
5. Reduces fear and anxiety
Pets are great listeners, cuddles and companions. They can provide those who suffer from fears, anxiety or depression comfort and unconditional support and love without judgment.
And it really doesn’t matter what type of animal you own, the research suggests.
“I don’t think that there are any pets ‘better’ than others to own, it is all up to the individual and what suits your needs,” Dr Plummer says.
“What are you hoping to get out of caring for the pet and how will it fit into or improve your current lifestyle? I think every animal has its own individual personality, which makes caring for a pet all the more rewarding.”