In my ongoing series based on a recent mental health report, here’s the how to beat the blues part 6. The presence of pets can be a huge help in mental health improvements, and many care homes have found that the introduction of animals for which residents have a responsibility for can greatly increase their levels of happiness. Some care homes have brought in cats and dogs so that residents – some of whom may have had to give up pets moving into homes – can stroke and play with the animals. And in many cases the simple act of stroking a cat or dog can lift spirits. “A pet can also give someone something to focus on other than themselves, to give kindness and affection,” Dr Harper says. There is a basic human desire to give things, he says – in a way we reward ourselves by being nice.
Another study recently featured in the daily mail showed the particular benefits of having a dog:
“New research has revealed that the daily chore of walking the dog can ward off depression and loneliness.A study by the University of Portsmouth found that the UK’s 6.2 million dogs helped motivate their 15 million owners by encouraging them to exercise through a daily walk, even when they didn’t feel like it.The dog walkers surveyed reported that the exercise gave them a better overall sense of well-being as they often met like-minded people, leaving them feeling happier.Participants in the psychological study also found that even if they were feeling low, they always felt better once they were outside.Whilst older dog walkers found that the exercise helped them stay physically fitter and maintain social contacts, it also encouraged children to venture outdoors and spend less time in front of the television, according to the report.The findings by the university’s Department of Environmental Design and Management come as conservation experts launch a new campaign to urge more people to “reconnect” with the environment.
As an interesting side effect we have found at Diets Don’t Work that many of our clients who have dogs don’t just get fitter and slimmer (and as a consequence happier) but so do their pets! Lots of our home personal training clients have dogs, who often come jogging with the client and trainer. In particular we have quite a few greedy labradors who are now much fitter, happier and slimmer. For a good example have a look at Lucy (black, furry) and Sharon (Human, non furry) on our home page and on the success stories page.