The Importance of having a furry friend
Author: Dr. Julie. Sorenson, DMFT, MA, LPC
Pets can assist in improving physical and mental health.
If you have a dog or a cat, you know the feeling you get from coming home after a long day and having your furry friend greet you at the door. Walking in the house and having your animal be so excited to see you is therapeutic. You can feel their energy as they see you have arrived, and it can be reassuring and enjoyable. It has been said that animals assist in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety and decrease stress. Pet ownership can help in increasing self-esteem and confidence. Caring for your furry friends can give you a routine and structure with daily feedings and care. Pets prepare you for a more realistic schedule, such as mealtimes, the importance of adding a nap, and bedtime. They remind you when it’s time to eat, exercise and rest just with their peer existence.
Having a dog allows you to get out in the fresh air and take them on daily walks, which helps raise endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in your brain. Taking your dog for a walk allows you to get out of the house and interact with other dog owners, lessening the likelihood of isolation. Daily walking will enable you to start a conversation that might not happen if your dog isn’t with you; they seem to bring positive communication among humans. You may hear, “awe, your dog is so adorable,” or “what breed is your dog” younger children may even say, “is it okay to touch your dog”?. Sometimes seeing an animal will provide a smile to someone’s face.
It has been suggested that pets can feel stressed, sick, or sad when their owner is stressed, and they will try to paw at you or nudge you to provide some attention. Little ones often read to their pets or confide in them when they feel lonely, sad, or scared.
Many schools are noticing the benefits of having animals in school and have emotional support dogs to assist children in feeling safe and comforted at school. Therapy dogs are assisting in decreasing anxiety in students, patients, and hospitals. Many places allow dogs to be a part of reading programs, hospices, and funeral homes to provide emotional support during difficult times. Any animal can provide an atmosphere for humans to unwind. Having that special four-legged friend can give comfort and social support. Cat owners feel the love from their cats’ meowing or pacing under their feet, asking for extra love, and lowering stress levels in their humans.
Pets can build social skills when taking them to training classes or dog parks. They also can help children reduce energy by playing fetch outside, tug of war, or going on a long run. It has been noted that pets can assist in decreasing symptoms of ADHD because of the additional activities that coincide with owning a pet, according to researchers.
During the pandemic, many people found themselves feeling isolated or alone. Having an animal was an excellent way to provide companionship during that difficult time, and many people were drawn to adopting a pet. Research determined that overall health had significant benefits, including increased mental health once humans brought a pet into their homes. Pets have been shown to assist in providing companionship and support to those suffering from PTSD, depression, or anxiety. Pets provide therapeutic interventions as they offer unconditional love, especially for those living alone. Our pets quickly become a part of our family dynamic. We can learn a lot from our four-legged friends, and we must be open to what they share with us by watching their behaviors.
Help to alleviate stress, depression, and anxiety
People who own pets have been determined to show fewer signs of depression, and researchers determined they have a more positive mindset, less feeling of loneliness, and more social support compared to those that don’t have pets. People who own pets feel they are never judged by their animals, promoting higher self-esteem. Pet owners can maintain a schedule and feel more motivated to get things done. In addition to increasing motivation and reducing loneliness, they can show fewer signs of stress and a decrease in panic attacks for those suffering extreme anxiety symptoms. The presence of furry friends can enhance mental health by touching their company because it can bring comfort and decrease anxiety. If you are on the fence about purchasing or adopting a pet, some organizations will allow you to have a weekend test to see if it is the right animal for you or your family.
The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research Evidence-Based Living, 2021, A Pet Could Help Boost Your Mental Health, Psychology Today
Gillis, K, 2021, How Pets Boost Our Mental Health, Decreasing Isolation, and Increasing Motivation, Psychology Today
Miller, L, 2020, The Psychological and Physical Benefits of Having a Pet, Psychology Today