Today our blog discusses the mental and physical effects our furry family has on all of us.
Isolation is a natural reaction to depression and grief. If you’re in the depths of depression, it can be hard to pick up the phone and call a friend. If you’ve lost a loved one, lost your good health, or lost a relationship, you may pull inward and grieve alone. But just because isolation is natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Isolation can create a spiral of despair. Depression and grief cause people to cut themselves off from friends and family, which in turn causes more depression and grief, and so on. Talk therapy and medications are the standard treatments for these states of mind. Recent research, however, points to another way to help people escape that spiral. It’s been called the pet effect. Simply put, being around animals helps people feel less isolated, depressed, and grief-stricken.
Positive human-animal interaction is related to the changes in physiological variables both in humans and animals, including a reduction of subjective psychological stress (fear, anxiety) and an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain. Science demonstrates that these biological responses have measurable clinical effects.
In layman’s terms, people under stress feel better when there’s an animal around.
People who struggle with depression and loss bear out these findings in numerous stories of comfort and redemption in the face of traumatic events. The parents, families, and significant others of fallen servicemen and women have sought solace in the company of animals. TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, has collected a number of poignant tales about the ways dogs helped them cope with their loss.
Even if we can’t reduce the pain, if we can reduce depression and improve mental health, there are benefits in terms of looking at how you get up in the morning and want to do things. Some people we interviewed were suicidal; they were thinking about taking their own lives but what stopped them was having a dog and having to care for that creature. Having a dog is so central to giving them a meaning and purpose.
While there’s little doubt anymore that interacting with animals has a positive effect on people’s state of mind, there’s still much to learn about how and why that happens.
There’s also a wealth of scientific research that explains the pet effect in physiological terms. Among many other benefits, pet ownership lowers blood pressure, results in higher one-year survival rates following heart attacks, may be responsible for a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, and is associated with a reduced risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and diffuse large cell lymphoma.
Emotional support animals have become more accepted in the last ten years. It’s not uncommon for landlords who have no-pets policies to make exceptions for bona find emotional support animals. But we still have a way to go before pets are welcome everywhere. Then too, some people love animals and benefit from interaction with them, but are also allergic to them or have household members who are.
There are several ways to get the psychological benefits animals provide without actually having a pet. Volunteering at a local animal shelter or becoming a professional pet sitter or dog walker gives people some of the pet effect’s benefits without creating conflicts with landlords and neighbors and without constantly subjecting people to allergens.
Best Friends Animal Society is one of the nation’s premier animal rescue organizations. It offers numerous opportunities for people who want to spend time with animals to do so in a way that furthers their “save them all” philosophy.
Click here for source.