In the UK, 52% of adults own at least one pet. Frankly, this is no surprise: animals are adorable, loving, and a special member of every household. But as well as being great for cuddles and company, spending time with our furry friends can have many advantages for our physical and mental health.
Whether at home or work, the presence of four-legged companions can greatly impact your overall well-being. Here, we outline how animals can boost our mood, happiness, and concentration while highlighting why more and more workplaces are becoming pet-friendly.
Health benefits of having a pet in your life
Caring for a pet and receiving unconditional love in return can positively impact the quality of your life. After all, humans and animals have been sharing homes and work activities for thousands of years.
So, it’s no wonder we have built strong relationships, bonds, and affection over the centuries.
9 in 10 owners believe their furry companions work wonders for their well-being. But in what ways do pets enhance our mental health? Let’s have a look.
Increase physical activity
One of the most obvious advantages of owning an animal is enjoying more physical activity. For instance, this is especially true for dog owners, as their pooches require at least one walk a day to stay active and in shape.
Dr Harpreet Sood says: “Putting your walking boots on and getting out and about with your pet can aid your mental health too. The good thing is that, as well as helping you develop healthy habits for your body, fitting some much-needed physical activity within your daily routine can uplift your mental well-being.”
Dr Sood explains: “Physical exercise can improve the symptoms of many mental issues, from anxiety and panic disorder to depression. Many GPs around England use social prescribing, which supports patients with emotional, physical and social needs to improve physical and mental health.”
Reduce feelings of stress
Spending time with a pet and stroking them while they are on your lap can gradually decrease your sentiments of stress. It has been found that petting a dog can lower cortisol production, a hormone closely linked to stress.
At the same time, cuddling your pooch can trigger the release of a feel-good hormone called ‘oxytocin’, which is also what happens when a mother breastfeeds her baby.
If you own a cat, you will be happy to know that your feline’s purr can alleviate feelings of stress too. Not only does it have a therapeutic effect on mental illnesses, but it also helps decrease blood pressure and favour the healing of both physical conditions.
Provide companionship and a sense of purpose
Pets are an excellent antidote against loneliness. Love and the need to be loved is a basic human instincts, and animals can always offer heaps of affection.
Especially in the case of elderly people, who sometimes experience a lack of human interaction, the presence of dogs, cats, or other pets in the house can help combat negative feelings of solitude and sadness.
Moreover, looking after an animal can give a much-important sense of purpose. Knowing that your pet depends on your care can make you feel wanted and needed, which can, in turn, help shift the focus away from personal worries.
Help meet new people
Another advantage of owning a pet is that animals allow you to meet and maintain new friendships. Indeed, especially on dog walks, pet owners are likely to stop and have a chat while their pooches get to know each other too.
Social interaction triggers a cascade of neurotransmitters, including the release of oxytocin, meaning that person-to-person contact can positively affect how we respond to feelings of stress and anxiety.
Pets in the workplace
In short, animals can mitigate negative emotions. However, should you be concerned about your mental state, it is always wise to contact your doctor.
They will be able to assess your mental health, set out possible recovery programmes, and provide you with any necessary GP prescription to help you feel better.
As well as benefitting your well-being in your private life, our furry friends can also have a huge impact in the workplace, which is why more and more offices are becoming pet-friendly. Here are some of the advantages you could enjoy if you bring pets to work.
- Better concentration – It has been found that engaging and interacting with dogs can boost your executive functions and ability to think, concentrate, and plan. Interestingly, the effects can last up to six weeks, meaning that dog contact can positively impact your working brain.
- Decrease stress and pressure – If you are experiencing a bad day at the office, pets can help you destress and aid your mental health. Evidence shows that students who have access to animal visits present lower levels of cortisol (e.g. the stress hormone). So, it is only natural to believe that having pets in the office can help preserve your mental well-being when under pressure at work.
- Force to take breaks – Working non-stop may seem productive. But the truth is that ploughing through tasks can take its toll on your mental health and efficiency levels. This is why it is always important to take a well-earned rest occasionally. With loving four-legged companions in the room, there is no need to schedule breaks, as they are more likely to happen naturally. Having pets in the workplace can also motivate you to get away from your desk for a little while and, perhaps, fit in a short stroll to energise your body.
If you are the proud owner of a furry companion or are considering adopting a four-legged friend, rest assured that pets can offer many health benefits. From increasing your physical activity and providing companionship to minimising stress and favouring social interaction, having an animal in your family can work magic on your mental well-being.
What’s more, if you need a motivational “colleague” in the workplace, a waggly co-worker could enhance your productivity and concentration as you do your daily duties. So, asking your current employer whether they are happy to arrange pet-friendly workdays may be worth asking, as it can uplift your team.
The articles we publish on Psychreg are here to educate and inform. They’re not meant to take the place of expert advice. So if you’re looking for professional help, don’t delay or ignore it because of what you’ve read here. Check our full disclaimer.