Companion animals provide many positive effects to our mental and emotional health. Here are seven:
#1 Normalizing brain chemistry
A study by University of Missouri scientists documented that petting a dog can cause a spike in one’s serotonin level, the neurotransmitter that most antidepressants attempt to increase. Pets can profoundly change the biochemistry of our brains. It’s no wonder that pet-assisted therapies help people with autism and those suffering from PTSD and drug addiction.
#2 Release of neurochemicals
Studies have found that when people pet or interact with their companion animals, they are actually releasing good neurochemicals. For starters, they double the blood levels of oxytocin – which slows heart rate and creates a sense of calm and comfort. It was also found to boost levels of beta endorphins — natural painkillers associated with “runners high” — and dopamine, known widely as the “reward” hormone.
#3 Better mood
Research that has examined the effects of pet therapy on mood in elderly patients with depression, dementia or psychosis found a decrease in depressive symptoms and an overall better feeling of goodwill about their lives. Those who participated with pet therapy over a six-week period reported “improved perception of quality of life, and better cognitive functioning.”
#4 Solace from stress
While there may be more dog and cat households, they don’t have bragging rights, according to Aubrey Fine, PhD, editor of the Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy. “Fish are very relaxing,” he says, referring to research that shows watching fish tanks decreases stress hormones. He’s also seen how children he was treating responded positively to a gerbil in his office, and other clients in his private practice engaging with his cockatoos and other birds.
#5 Sense of comfort
Research shows we receive a sense of comfort and emotional support from “positive, nonjudgmental companions,” says Megan Mueller, PhD, who pursues research on animal-human interactions at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. When we are down, or feeling stigmatized by the world, having a furry friend that will provide us with a complete sense of comfort.
#6 Emotional health
A 2011 study found that compared to non-pet owners, researchers report pet owners to “have higher self-esteem, be more extroverted and less lonely, be less preoccupied, and be less fearful of everyday life challenges.” Pets also appeared to help owners feel better after an incident where they reported feeling rejected.”
#7 The downside
For all the upsides, it’s important for those with a mood disorder to consider the downsides of pet ownership i.e. they have shorter lifespans than us and there is a risk of a downward crisis when losing a pet. Some experts will advise to think again and have a commemoration plan in place for when that time comes—perhaps by planting a tree.
sources: “Psychological effects of pets are profound,” bostonglobe.com
“Mood-boosting Power of Dogs,” helpguide.org
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community