Today 20th February 2020 represents National Love your Pet Day so I thought it would be good to write a little bit about why pets can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing.
Up until 2014 I had never had a pet and at times wondered what all the fuss was about. Then after a little emotional blackmail from my wife and daughter who was 3 at the time, I had my arm twisted to go and look at some King Charles Cavalier pups.
The moment we laid eyes on them I knew we wouldn’t be leaving without one of them and that is how Sparkles (named by daughter lol) became part of our home.
It was then I realised just how strong and powerful a bond we have with animals and why they become a part of the family. The positive impact a pet can have on a home is so great as they are a great source of comfort and companionship which can allow us to live mentally healthier lives.
Now, if you are reading this blog and are struggling to look after yourself due to a mental health issue, I would strongly advise that you speak with a professional about this such as your GP before you take on caring for a pet.
Lowering Stress: Studies and research have shown that playing or just petting a pet can help to ease and reduce stress. In a way it can help you practice mindfulness as I know myself when I’m sitting down and stroking my dog it allows my mind to quieten down and I’m not focusing on what has happened or what might happen, I’m just being present in the moment.
Companionship: They are great companions as they are loyal, affectionate, accepting and give us unconditional love. They can help to provide a sense of security for their owners and something to share our daily routine, which can be so valuable for people who are isolated or living alone.
Fulfil our need for contact or touch: If you are reading this and are quite like myself, I am very tactile and enjoy that sense of touch and many of us feel better when we have physical contact with others. Petting your pet can help fulfil that need many of us have for physical contact.
Make us feel needed: Looking after another person can give us a great sense of purpose and meaning and caring for a pet can also make us feel needed and wanted. The act of caretaking therefore has benefits for our mental health.
Cats and Dogs are a great example of living in the moment: I mentioned earlier about mindfulness and there is no better example than a cat or dog. They are not concerned about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow they just live in the moment.
Provide a Sense of Purpose: Pets need to be looked after everyday and that helps us to create healthy habits and routines. Dogs and cats can be a great motivator as they need to be fed on a regular basis no matter what mood we are in. Pets can therefore help give people a reason to get up in the morning and start their day which can be so beneficial for people suffering with anxiety and depression.
Self-care: By looking after our pets and helping us to create routines and habits that are positive it can help us to remember to care for ourselves as well.
Improve your fitness: Dogs need walked regularly and exercise such as walking has many positive benefits for your physical and mental wellbeing. Also, by getting outdoors it allows us to spend a bit of time in nature which can help you to relax and work on some mindfulness while walking.
Social Interaction: How often have you taken the dog for a walk and inevitably you meet other people out walking their dogs or out for a walk and you end up having a quick conversation with them. Having interactions with people whether it’s walking the dog, joining an animal club etc. allows us to feel more connected and feel less isolated.
If you have social anxiety, a pet can help with slowly introducing you to other people who also have pets and enhance your mental health and overcome the anxiety but at a pace that is comfortable for you.
Unconditional Love: Dogs and cats love their owners unconditionally, they don’t care that you have been out at work, or what your job is etc. They are just happy to see you and want to spend time with you.
I saw a great post about why a 6-year-old believes that dogs don’t live as long as us. The post said that we are born so that we can learn to live a good life and love everyone all the time. Dogs already know how to do that so they don’t have to stay as long….. how powerful and beautiful is that.
Until next time
When you are ready to talk, we are here to listen