This week is National Mental Health Week. Held annually to coincide with World Mental Health Day it’s a great way of increasing awareness in the community of the need to look after both our own mental health and to be aware of how those we love are travelling too. Unfortunately mental health can still be an awkward topic for some people to discuss. But with current estimates being that 1 in 4 adults will experience some form of mental health problem during their life it’s something we need to get better at.
What, you may ask, has mental health got to do with cats? Well cats, and pets more generally, can be of great assistance in helping humans enhance their mental health both as a preventative and recovery measure.
6 ways pets improve your mental health:
- De-stress: the repetitive nature of patting your furry friend can be a calming action for both of you. The tactileness of their fur, coupled with their purring (or doggie equivalent) allows you to simply focus on the moment and suspend destructive thought patterns for a period of time
- Companionship: for those who live alone, or those who are lonely even living in a household with others, pets are a great source of company. They are always happy to see you when you come home and couldn’t give a toss that you screwed up at work today – they’ll always think you’re THE BEST
- Routine: basic pet ownership responsibility starts with routines around feeding, grooming and exercise. For people suffering from depression or anxiety maintaining a routine is a useful management strategy
- Purpose: people who suffer with depression often feel useless, and in extreme cases, that their family and friends would be better off without them. The requirements of caring for a pet provide a sense of purpose in that someone needs them. At the same time it allows for the focus to be on someone else rather than themselves. In saying that though be sure not to add further responsibilities to someone who is already struggling with their existing load
- Social interaction, fitness and getting you outside: for the dog owners amongst us, the daily walk requirement gets you out amongst people and can be an ice-breaker in meeting and interacting with new people. Regular exercise is often recommended for depression sufferers because it increases both the production and release of serotonin (often known as the feel-good hormone) which helps regulate mood. Similarly, getting some Vitamin D exposure courtesy of the sun provides physical benefits too
- Time to play: everyone needs time out to play and be silly. Grab one of your interactive cat toys, like our Cat Teasers, and run your Favourite Feline ragged. Or take the Delightful Dog down to the park and throw the Frisbee around for them. Acting silly will make you laugh at yourself
- They just make you smile: who can’t laugh when you see a cat chase its own tail (even if it is for the 50 millionth time and you wonder why they haven’t worked it out yet) or a dog roll around on his back like he’s in heaven. Thanks to the connection between body and mind the physical act of smiling triggers the reward mechanisms in our brains and helps lift our mood.
Hug your pet. I guarantee it’ll make you feel better.