The British Medical Journal wrote in 2005 about how swimming with dolphins can help beat depression. But with access to swimming with dolphins being limited in Hampshire, can pets be good for your mental wellbeing?
Studies have shown that time with dogs helps to create feelings of security. Some people with agoraphobia report that they are no longer housebound because of such contact, and post-traumatic stress disorder can likewise be alleviated. There are also proven medical advantages. Patients who have interacted with dogs have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and in many cases require less medication than before.
The list of benefits goes on: dogs foster social contact and help to overcome loneliness, encourage interaction with nature (itself shown to be therapeutic), and promote getting out in the fresh air and taking exercise. But, more than anything else, the unconditional love and empathy that a dog can provide is profoundly healing.
But these benefits are not just limited to our canine companions and our service users often say that having a pet can be a real boost to their emotional wellbeing, whether that is a cat, horse, bird – or even giant rabbits!
Last week, Eastleigh Wellbeing Centre visited Nico the rabbit, son of Darius, the largest rabbit recorded in the world! Nico’s owner, Jayne, has been coming to Eastleigh Wellbeing Centre a least once a week and knows how she personally benefits from pet ownership and the Wellbeing Centre at Eastleigh.
‘I have many pets,’ says Jayne, ‘a chicken that thinks she is a dog called Helen as she follows me everywhere, a cat called Jet, two Chinchillas called Ant and Dec, also a pond full of Koi Carp, and finally my latest addition, Nico the giant rabbit!
My pets give me something to get up for, as they rely on me for food and basic needs. They make me feel wanted, don’t answer me back and always give unconditionally love.
I try to come to the Wellbeing Centre most days and Mondays are my favourite, as we do creative art. I have now started a journal on Nico, my new addition to my ‘Noah’s Ark’. I think that Solent Mind’s wellbeing Centre is a life line to many people and it has certainly been helping me.’