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The Benefits of Animals for Mental Health

Updated: May 25, 2023




It’s Mental Health Week! Across the UK this week, people will raise awareness about the effects of poor mental health and how to improve it. This year’s theme is anxiety, and in this week’s blog post, we’ll discuss how being around animals can improve anxious feelings and your overall mental well-being! Pet therapy is a valuable tool and utilises animal interactions to help improve physical, mental, social, and emotional functioning.



Animals Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety


Spending time with animals is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. A US study examined how allowing university students to spend time with animals would affect their mental health. It found that significant time spent with an animal was enough to affect anxiety and stress levels positively. Animal interactions also reduce the stress-inducing hormone, cortisol, and lower blood pressure. According to the BACP (British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists), “Focusing on an animal can help clients relax, talk honestly and start to explore how they feel about experiences in their lives.”




Animals Can Help Combat Depression


As well as reducing anxiety, animals can also help to reduce feelings of depression. Depression is often linked with feelings of isolation and loneliness. The companionship animals offer helps lessen these feelings, improving their overall mental well-being. When we are feeling low, animals provide support and unconditional affection. The responsibilities of being around animals are also seen to improve depressive symptoms by building self-esteem and providing the daily structure that comes with caring for other living things.




Animals Can Help Improve Social Skills


Socialisation can be a difficult task for some people, leading to feelings of anxiety and discomfort. Animals bring an opportunity to connect and build bonds with others, develop interpersonal skills, reinforce safety protocols, and improve social conduct. Enhancing social skills and building bonds can improve our social network and support structures around us when we have anxiety or poor mental health. Building confidence is also a benefit of animal therapy, reassuring us that we are capable of far more than our minds may lead us to believe.


 

So, as you can see, animals and animal therapy can be a really beneficial but often overlooked way to improve your mental health. It strengthens bonds, builds confidence, and reduces feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression. What’s not to love?


Mental Health Week is 15 th – 21 st May and aims to promote the ways in which mental

health affects us all, and what we can do to keep on top of our mental well-being.



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