How people struggling with a mental health condition or addiction can benefit from a companion animal

How people struggling with a mental health condition or addiction can benefit from a companion animal

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Animals provide great companionship, but they also provide people with support and aid in a variety of ways. Some animals provide search and rescue assistance, while others assist people with vision and mobility impairments. Companion animals can also help people struggling with a mental health condition or addiction by providing friendship and love, promoting exercise, providing a sense of purpose, and more. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/danielle-hark/pet-ownership-health_b_3187960.html

A Great Friendship

Because they’re intuitive, pets will often sense when you’re feeling down and stay by your side, so they’re great at reducing feelings of loneliness. You can also talk to your pet about anything without fear of judgment. Whether it’s about your you’re your relationship or just your day in general, a pet is a great listener. They can also reduce feelings of isolation. For example, a trip to a dog park provides socialization for dogs and their owners. Even at local parks or in a neighborhood, dogs are a conversation starter.

Pets love their owners unconditionally. They’re happy to see you, despite what may be going on in your life. A pet will want to be around you, love you, and be loved by you. Witnessing a pet’s enthusiasm when he or she sees you is sure to boost your mood. Smiling is a natural mood booster, so when you see your pet’s cute antics (like a cat chasing a laser) and smile, you’re increasing serotonin and dopamine levels, which promote calmness and happiness. http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1871687,00.html

Boosting Moods Through Activity

Many pets require exercise, especially dogs. Walking your dog and engaging in other activities like fetch provide ways to exercise. Mental health professionals often recommend exercise because it helps combat many symptoms of mental illnesses. Exercise can improve sleep, mood, energy, and stamina. It can also reduce stress and tiredness.

Some pets, like dogs and horses, require spending time outside. Soaking up the sun and breathing fresh air will boost your mood. The sun provides vitamin D, which has been proven to help fight depression, cancer, obesity, and heart attacks, and a walk in nature provides an additional and natural mood boost. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/

Reducing Stress

When pets are groomed and petted, it feels comforting and soothing, but it also benefits owners. Petting and grooming allows you to connect with your pet. “Concentrate on the texture of his soft fur, the warmth he radiates, and his deep breaths,” says Huffington Post. Making this connection with your pet releases oxytocin, which lowers stress and anxiety, which is why therapy dogs are often used to visit nursing homes, children’s hospitals, and rehabilitation centers. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4625213/ns/health-pet_health/t/puppy-love—-its-better-you-think/#.Wj214NKnHIV

Spending time with your pet and caring for him or her distracts you and keeps you present, thus taking your mind off of the issues that may be bothering you and worsening your mental illness or addiction. Whether you’re playing with your pet or snapping photos of him chasing his tail, you’re letting loose and forgetting about your worries.

Pets also provide a sense of purpose. Knowing that you’re providing care and love for your pet and seeing his or her positive response makes you feel fulfilled and content. “Your companion animal trusts you implicitly to care for his every need. In return, you regain the self-confidence that you can not only care for yourself, but for another,” says DrugRehab.org. http://www.drugrehab.org/adopting-companion-animal-recovery-addiction/

Tips for First-Time Pet Owners

When deciding to get a pet, be sure you research the type of pet that’s best suited for you and your lifestyle. Also, before bringing your pet home, prepare your home and make a plan. Learn as much as you can about caring for the type of pet that you select, including its specific breed and age. Be prepared to provide the proper nutrition, shelter, physical care, and social interactions. Find a good veterinarian before you adopt your pet and stock up on the necessary supplies, including food, toys, bowls, beds, and crates or cages.

Before you decide to get a companion animal, ensure you’re ready and able to provide the appropriate level of care and love for a pet. Getting a pet is a long-term commitment, so don’t go into pet ownership hoping to simply fill a temporary void. Although caring for a pet isn’t always easy, companion animals can provide many benefits for those suffering from mental health issues and addiction. https://www.thespruce.com/first-time-dog-owners-tips-1117335

Photo credit https://pixabay.com/en/westie-dog-kisses-outdoors-outside-571007/