The Many Mental Health Benefits of Pet Ownership
Having a pet is something you may have dreamed about as a child. Perhaps you asked your parents to get you a dog or a cat for your birthday every year. As the years went by, the dream slowly faded. Now, as an adult that dream can come alive once again!
Bringing a pet into the family can benefit your mental health while naturally introducing positive lifestyle changes that can also provide mental health benefits. Having a dog, a cat, or even a pet pig can offer a sense of belonging by expanding your social circle, increasing exercise, which will lower stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression, and boosting your entire family’s mental health.
Pet Companionship Helps Fight Against Loneliness
Feelings of loneliness and isolation can be hard, and attempting to resolve these issues can be complicated. You may find yourself trying to reach out to friends and family to find support but stop yourself out of fear of being clingy or a burden. However, companionship does not need to only be with friends and family; it can also come from a pet. A comforting bond can come from nurturing a dog or cat. This special connection can be strong enough to help you feel a sense of purpose and comfort, and ease the sense of isolation. Even the physical acts of stroking and cuddling your pet can provide relief.
Animals can also be quite helpful at building human relationships. If you find yourself having difficulty meeting new people, going on walks with your dog may be a way you can expand your social circle. Many pet owners naturally build relationships with other pet owners while on walks. It’s a conversation starter, including in counsellor-client relationships. It can be challenging walking into a therapist’s office and being expected to share your life’s problems, but a dog can make for a great ice breaker (this is why virtual therapy is so handy!)
Pets as Exercise Buddies
The buddy system is often encouraged for those trying to add or increase exercise into their lifestyle because it can prove a great motivator. A human companion can be hard to find, inconsistent, and add an extra bit of pressure to your relationships. A pet as an exercise buddy is much more consistent, not to mention the parental pride that comes with it; it can help you feel needed. There’s also a sense of purpose from knowing that there is a cute animal excited to see you when you get home.
A pet can support your physical health by encouraging a regular exercise routine, which benefits your mental health by reducing stress, anxiety, depression and bringing companionship and feelings of belonging, pride, and stability into your life.
Boost your family’s mental health
A pet’s role in the family can be diverse. So far, we have only discussed pets as providing individual benefits, but there may be developing mental health concerns in your family. If you’re going through a divorce, and you’re worried about the effect it will have on your children, having a consistent and loving animal in the home can be very supportive.
A new puppy can bring so much joy and companionship for a child who doesn’t have many friends .For only children, a pet can actually bring many of the same benefits as a sibling to your child. Pets also provide children with stability in a family when there are a lot of changes happening. In fact, pets are recommended as a therapeutic approach for families in need of extra support. Animals create a bond between family members and help to maintain that each member has at least one thing in common, the love for their pet.
Ways To Benefits From Animals Without Being A Full Time Pet Owner
Here are some things you can do if you want a pet in your life but can’t commit to full time pet ownership:
- Make friends with people who have pets: Simply being around dogs and cats can lower stress.
- Offer to walk your neighbour’s dog: You can still have an occasional exercise buddy.
- Visit a dog therapy clinic or a cat cafe: You can get the sensory stress relief you may need.
- Temporarily foster an animal: If you’re willing to commit but only for a short period of time, you can foster an animal.
If The Special Animal In Your Life Provides Emotional Support, Consider Online Therapy
There are many great things about online therapy, and one of those benefits is that you can have your emotional support animal by your side while you talk to a counsellor. Staying supported and comfortable in your home during a vulnerable time of sharing can really help.
Ready to start online therapy? Reach out!