The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (15th–21st of May), centres around anxiety and the effects it has on our day-to-day lives. Recent research has shown that 60% of Brits are currently struggling with anxiety, and over half are dealing with depression.
A recent survey by Animal Friends Pet Insurance has revealed that having a pet in our home can give us a sense of purpose, which has been found to have a positive effect on well-being. On top of this, almost 4 in 5 (79%) pet parents say that their pet has helped them get through a life event, both big and small.
Many of those surveyed shared that their pet helps to make them feel happier. Catrin George, animal well-being Specialist at Animal Friends Pet Insurance, explains how our fur babies go even further when it comes to helping us through our times of need, and shares four top tips based on some of the most common themes from the survey data:
“Our four-legged friends are a lot more than just ‘loyal companions,’ and our recent customer survey has shown that a lot of our pets take on the role of listener, exercise pal and even confidant.”
Get it off your chest
Catrin explained: “Offloading the things that make you anxious can, at times, bring you relief. Even just knowing there’s a listening ear available can be a massive help, which is where our pets come in. Just under 80% (79%) of pet owners said that they talk to their pets all the time, even depending on them to prepare for a challenging conversation.
“Many participants shared how their pets don’t judge them (unless they are snoring) and always provide that much-needed comfort. One survey participant even confessed that they talk to their dogs more than their partner.”
Breathe it all in
Catrin said: “Being active in nature can help reduce our levels of depression and anxiety. Find an outdoor activity you enjoy, no matter how small and try to implement it regularly. Getting into a routine of regular dog walks has been shown to stabilise mental health, even after dealing with incredibly difficult challenges such as bereavement.”
Catrin added: “Nearly three quarters (70%) of pet owners admitted their favourite family member was the one with four legs, whilst a further 88% said that their pets never make them feel judged. It seems we can truly be ourselves in the company of our furry best friend and would often rate them above humans for company.
“For some, pets can be a reason for living; providing comfort, reassurance and loyalty every step of the way. Our survey revealed a sense of “being lost” without our pets and that pet parents and their companions “love each other unconditionally.”
“While some pets can be quite demanding, with many owners saying they wait on their furry family member ‘hand and paw,’ 92% of pet parents say that this routine gives them purpose. It even encourages them to get out of bed on those more difficult days, even if it is from a gentle nose nudge or paw tap to fill up the food bowl.”
Catrin shared: “Meeting new people who share similar interests can give you an escape and an outlet to talk and pet owners are a perfect example of this. Some survey participants shared how they have met some of their dearest friends through dog walking, describing how their pet has helped them overcome social anxiety.
“Make the most of the time you spend with your furry friends; whether it’s a 10-minute stroll in the park, offloading about your day after work or simply enjoying a cuddle on the sofa. No matter how little, any precious time spent with our four-legged companions can have a positive impact on our mental health.”
If you are struggling with your mental health and considering welcoming a pet into your home, rescue centres across the UK are currently bursting at the seams with lonely pets waiting to be loved and to give their love in return. Who knows, it could the start of the most beautiful, accepting relationship you will ever have.