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  1. Pets as therapy: How animals can help improve our mental health

    This article has kindly been provided by James Patefield from Mediaworks and makes interesting reading.

    Pets as therapy: How animals can help improve our mental health

    We’re a nation of animal lovers, aren’t we? A study has found that nearly half of the UK’s households have a pet, with 26% owning a dog, and 18% owning a cat. Why? Well, 90% of pet owners have stated that having an animal in the house makes them happy while 88% also claim that it improves their overall quality of life.

    Here, we take a look at why this may be the case:

    Calming presence

    No matter what stage of your life you are at, sometimes you need to take a step back and relax. Certain educational establishments have noticed this and have started bringing dogs in around exam season. Newcastle College’s Ofsted report praised the student support facility by recognising methods to optimise the learning environment.

    According to experts, students who play with dogs have an increased level of happiness, while their stress levels also plummet, sometimes for up to 10 hours! The idea behind the concept is that students are allowed to pet, cuddle and chat to the animals. Researchers discovered that this activity enabled students’ stress levels to drop by 45%, meaning that, they were more relaxed during the stress of exam season.

    Provide companionship

    Loneliness is a big issue in the UK. According to stats, most people will feel lonely at some point in their lives and currently 1.9 million older people in the UK feel ignored or invisible. Loneliness is said to be as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. To combat this, many care homes are bringing animals in for sessions to help stimulate conversation between residents. One Reading care home has veered away from the usual dog and cat offering and brought alpacas in as part of their therapy and enriching activities.

    Combat depression

    Animals can offer you comfort and love – two things that you often feel are missing if you’re depressed. By owning a pet, you can feel like you have a sense of worth. This is because you will have a regular schedule, knowing that it’s up to you to feed and work your pet, giving you a sense of purpose and a routine.

    Walking your pet also leads to physical activity, which in turn helps combat depression. However, you must make sure that you are financially stable, otherwise having another living being dependent on your income may lead to unnecessary stress.

    Pets and children with ADHD

    It’s not just older generations that find animals help with their mental state of mind. Studies have found that children with ADHD can also benefit from having a pet. This is due to them taking on the duties to look after the animal and thus learning how to plan and be responsible.

    Similar to how owning an animal can help combat depression, the exercise aspect required for most pets can allow your child to burn off excessive energy, allowing them to become calmer as the day goes on. Sometimes, kids with ADHD struggle to communicate and animals can be great listeners, helping children air their issues while aiding their self-confidence.

    Autism

    Those who are autistic often struggle with sensory issues. Animals such as dogs and horses can help those with autism get used to how something smells, sounds or feels. It’s believed that children who have autism find working with animals a calming experience and it can help increase their desire and ability to connect with others in a social environment.

    Of course, not everyone is an animal lover, but the stats and figures clearly show that animals certainly can be a human’s best friend.

    Sources

    https://www.statista.com/statistics/308218/leading-ten-pets-ranked-by-household-ownership-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2018/03/12/give-university-students-dogs-cuddle-stressful-exam-periods/

    https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/loneliness/

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-berkshire-44951883/alpacas-visit-reading-care-home-to-bring-joy-to-residents

    https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/pets-depression#1

    https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/pets-and-mental-health