Mental Health & Pets – How Pets Can Benefit Your Mental Health
A recent review has suggested that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions. That’s right: having a pet can help you if you have a mental health issue.
Interestingly enough, this review comes just a few weeks after we have expanded the Regan household to include Nibbles the rabbit. She’s on her own right now as the other rabbit we were going to adopt fell ill yet soon we will be socialising her to live with a new rabbit friend. It’s been pretty great to see how my girls have taken on the responsibility of looking after Nibbles. They are out there first thing in the morning adding hay and food and changing the water. They are out there again after school and before bedtime to make sure she is ok and to have some rabbit time. In fact, I think that the amount of times they spend watching TV and on other screens has probably dropped about 50% or more.
And, combined with a change of school for our eldest, we’ve really got our daughter back after the issues we had at her old school that were impacting on her mental health and well-being. It’s been great to see. It’s also given me a great excuse to repeatedly sing the classic 80’s Chas & Dave song ‘Rabbit’ which although having nothing to do with actual rabbits, certainly mentions them a lot!
Recently we headed over to the wonderful people at Wood Green animal charity to seek out a new friend for Nibbles.
(sometimes having kids is like having pets too!)
Mental Health & Pets
The recently published research carried out a systematic review of 17 studies involving 1727 pet owners, all of whom had mental health conditions.
In their conclusion the authors write, ‘this review suggests that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions through the intensity of connectivity with their owners and the contribution they make to emotional support in times of crises together with their ability to help manage symptoms when they arise.’
So there was plenty of good stuff about psychological benefits from pets providing a consistent and close source of calming support and companionship, distraction from upsetting symptoms, the benefits from providing purpose and routine and the perception that pets accept their owners without judgement.
Certainly these are all very helpful and positive things for someone with a mental health condition (and in many ways for the rest of the population too).
But before anyone goes out and gets a pet, the report writes about the importance of matching pets to individual circumstances because of potential negative aspects of pet ownership such as financial costs, dealing with unruly pets and the potential and actual distress associated with the loss of a pet. So whilst there are many benefits of pet ownership for mental health, it may not be right for everyone.
There really are some wonderful anecdotes from pet owners in the report about how much they value their pet because of the positive impact on their mental health. Certainly we have begun to see many benefits for the girls in having Nibbles to look after and it’s lovely to nurture their caring and loving parts as well as the sense of purpose and responsibility they are continuing to grow.
To your positive mental health (and my warm regards to your pet too),
Hypnotherapy Ely, Newmarket, Online
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Reference: The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence. Published in BMC Psychiatry (2018).