National Pet Week®: Benefits of Pet Ownership
Whether you are a pet owner or not, it’s tough to deny the joy that companion animals bring to their owners. In fact, the majority of pet owners consider their animals part of the family, many even purchase birthday or holiday gifts for them. While the average house pet decidedly lives a fairly luxurious life, ongoing research shows that both animals and humans (notably individuals with mental illness) benefit from these relationships.
Here are a few of the many ways pets have been known to improve the well-being of their owners:
•IMPROVES HEART HEALTH
According to the Harvard Medical School, dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure than non-dog owners. This is believed to occur in part because owners on average, get more exercise due to daily walks.
•GIVES A SENSE OF PURPOSE
For many, the routine nature of taking care of an animal has proven to help create a sense of purpose that was previously lacking. This can be extremely beneficial to individuals in recovery for problem gambling as well as older adults who may be dealing with low self-esteem.
•ALLEVIATES FEELINGS OF ISOLATION
People with mental illness and Gambling Disorder often see their social groups shrink and find themselves alienated from friends and family. In these instances, animals help combat that isolation as they do not need to understand their owners disorder in order to give affection or a listening ear. Additionally, many individuals have noted not acting on thoughts of suicide in fear that their pet will not receive necessary care.
•KEEPS YOU IN THE MOMENT
For individuals struggling with problem gambling, it can often be difficult to focus on anything other than the negative impacts of their gambling. Spending time with a pet can serve as a much-needed distraction. Scratching or stroking your pet can serve as an easy form of meditation and has been proven to release oxytocin, a chemical that helps create bonds.
It is important to note that while pets offer many health benefits to individuals in recovery and provide essential everyday support for combating various types of mental illnesses, not everyone is prepared to take on the responsibility of caring for another life. If you are unsure if you can commit to taking care of an animal full time but feel as though you would benefit from their companionship, consider contacting your local animal shelter to learn what options are available.