Depression and mental difficulties are increasingly prevalent. Daily hassles, pressure from workplace, school, and society, and news from social media, can all be causes of stress, having a great impact on ways of thinking, behaviour and mentality. There are various therapy methods proven to help healing people’s mental illness and improve their positivity, and now add “pet therapy” to the list.
For pet owners, pets are our friends and family members that take us out of loneliness and bring us joy whenever we come home. But pets can do more than that. There are a number of studies proven by psychologists about the positive impact of pets on decreasing stress, potentially one of the main causes of many types of illness; mental, cancer, heart disease, and blood pressure, insomnia, and obesity.
According to research from NIH (National Institutes of Health) and Mars Corporation’s WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, interacting with animals can decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. At the same time, animals can offer mental support, an ability to calm owners, and also boost confidence.
College of Management Mahidol University (CMMU) has done research on the most popular pets in Thailand, dogs won first place with 40.4%, followed by cats with 37.1%, and other exotic animals with 22.6%. However, different types of animals have different healing qualities.
Known as the loyal friend who is always there for us and brightens up our bad days, there is a possibility for dogs to decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels due to the exercise routine from taking them for daily walks. Dogs also help us to improve our social skills, give confidence to reach out to other people, especially for children and elders.
Cats are known for their independence. Sometimes it is difficult to read their emotions and behaviour, but it does not mean that they don’t share love and care with us. Their existence can lead to relaxation, relieve our stress, anxiety, and loneliness. They help to reduce hormones, and stabilise heart rates and blood pressure to normal.
If you are a bird lover, you’ll know how lovely and funny they are, especially those that can speak, sing and whistle. Birdsong has a connection with nature, and most of the time, it can calm the mind and alleviate negative emotions, anxiety and paranoia.
Even though we cannot interact with fish like other animals, just by looking at them swimming across the fish bowl can be deeply relaxing. They help to improve our mood and mental stability. In some cases, psychologists also encourage children with autism disorder to look at fish swimming to decrease their anxiety and increase their speech skills.
For people who confront mental difficulties, pet therapy is another way to heal your symptoms. However, the effectiveness of this method depends on the patient as well. If the patient is willing for the pets to help, and learn to care and be positive, they will find not only a therapist but a friend to share unconditional love with.