As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, many health officials are encouraging people to practice social distancing by staying at home as much as possible. These new measures, while crucial for protecting our communities, may mean that many people will experience feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The elderly, those with existing mental health conditions, and those who live alone are going to be hit the hardest with an increased lack of social interaction.
While there is no question that these are incredibly difficult times to maintain personal relationships, there has never been a better time to bring a new pet into your household. Not only are there more pets than ever needing good homes, experts say that being around pets has many health benefits. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has reported that pets and therapy animals can assist in alleviating anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as feelings of social isolation and loneliness.
Health Direct, an Australian government-funded service that provides approved health advice, has listed seven ways that owning or fostering a pet can improve your mental health:
- Pets reduce stress: simply patting a pet has been proven to reduce your blood pressure and also helps you to relax and practice mindfulness.
- Pets provide companionship: by being affectionate, loyal, and consistent, pets reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
- Pets fulfil the human touch need: touch is a basic human need which pets can fulfil. Patting a pet has also been proven to lower your heart rate.
- Pets keep you in a routine: pets can give you a sense of motivation by providing regular feeding, exercise, and cleaning.
- Pets provide a sense of purpose: taking care of, and being responsible for, a pet can provide you with a sense of purpose, which can help to reduce depression and anxiety.
- Pets increase your social interaction: while this point is not an option at the moment with COVID-19 restrictions, things will return to normal at some point and your new companion can provide you with opportunities for better social interactions.
- Pets improve your fitness: pets need regular exercise, which encourages you to move more. This, in turn, improves your general health and wellbeing. What better time to support the RSPCA’s Million Paws Walk: Walk this May? Sign up for FREE online and log the steps you and your pet make and fundraise along the way!
Can your pets contract or spread COVID-19? Read our latest blog here.