Today is World Kindness Day (Wednesday 13 November), so we’ve taken a look at how being kind to animals can benefit our mental health and wellbeing by reducing stress, anxiety and loneliness, and helping us cope with depression.
Pets bring us joy and make great companions, but studies have also shown that the animal-human bond can actually be beneficial to our mental health and wellbeing.
Alex Woods, Community Development Officer at headspace Taringa (operated by Open Minds), decided to train her dog, Indie, as a certified therapy dog.
Her decision spurred from a desire to want to help the young people she works with on a daily basis feel less anxious about attending their headspace appointments.
Alex said: “It is amazing to see what a therapy dog can do for young people sitting anxiously in a waiting room.
“I’ve witnessed Indie run out with her waggy tail to greet young people and not only does it change their expression, it also encourages the young people to connect rather than have their heads down in their devices.
“We have also had so many young people come into the centre in tears which soon fade when they are distracted by such a cute loving little pup that licks their face and gives them a cuddle.”
Pets and dogs in particular can reduce blood pressure, and help you relax.
The affectionate accepting, loyal nature of pets can help reduce loneliness and isolation by providing companionship.
Owning a pet also can provide a sense of purpose and responsibility. Having a routine, eating well, and undertaking regular exercise are all things that benefit our own mental wellbeing – but they are also needed for the animal to thrive.
Alex stressed that you don’t need to go out and buy a pet to be kind to animals, as this isn’t always an option financially or depending on living arrangements.
“Having a pet of your own is great however just playing with a neighbour or friend’s pet is just as rewarding.
“If this isn’t an option, volunteering at your local animal shelter is always a really great way to give back and get some cuddles while you’re at it.”