Lots of people call dogs “Man’s Best Friend,” but surely other animals can be great companions as well! Some people prefer cats, rodents, reptiles, birds, or even horses. If you’ve ever had a pet, you know one fact to be true. Animals captivate and comfort us in a way people just can’t sometimes. However, did you know that there are many health (physical and mental) benefits to having a pet?
Pets help us to get into a routine. They rely on us to be fed and cared for. It may seem like a small thing, but if you have ever found yourself struggling to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and that reason ends up being to feed your pet, they’re already doing you a favor! Caring for a pet can set a precedent for self-care, even if you don’t realize it. Perhaps you get in the habit of taking a shower while you let your dog out in the morning, or cleaning your cat’s litter box is part of your nightly tidying routine around the house. Sometimes, grooming a pet can remind us to groom ourselves!
Some health attributes that apply more to dogs and outdoor animals are a little more straightforward. Owning a dog can help promote physical activity through the acts of playing with and walking them. Any amount of physical activity is better than none, so even if you just go for a walk around the block a few times a day you’re benefiting you and your dog’s health. Not to mention that spending time outdoors is also great for your health. Fresh air lowers your likeliness of getting sick. Nature has also been found to relieve stress and anxiety. To top it off, getting some sun (don’t forget the sunscreen) benefits your health as well. This is even more true in the winter. Our bodies need vitamin D to remain healthy in mind and body. A lot of people don’t get enough of it in the winter due to shorter days and lower temperatures. It may seem daunting, but bundle up and take your dog for a quick walk! It will improve your mood and your health.
Animals that stay inside more such as cats, reptiles, and small animals like rodents have some of the same mental health benefits as dogs and outdoor animals. Our moods can easily be lifted exponentially by watching the funny and cute things our pets do. Laughing and smiling alone can increase your mood. Even if you’re around a pet that isn’t yours, it could help relieve anxiety. Have you ever been over to someone’s house for a social gathering and found yourself frequently trying to find the cat or dog so you could hang out with it for a second instead of all the people? There’s a scientific explanation for this. Animals help lower our levels of cortisol, which is a hormone that makes us feel stressed. You may be seeking comfort from the household’s pet if you’re feeling a bit of social anxiety. This is also true for relaxing and cuddling with a pet, sitting with it on your lap, or petting it. The way that pets seem to be so carefree most of the time can rub off on us and help us wind down from stress. They also provide us comfort through their unconditional love. You may still feel bad for accidentally stepping on your cat’s tail yesterday, even though a few minutes later it was purring and rubbing up against your legs, but there’s comfort in feeling loved by your pet wholeheartedly.
If you know exactly what I’m talking about to the point that you can’t bear being without your pet, there is an option to be able to have them accompany you in stressful situations. Some animals can be registered as emotional support animals. This means that you would be allowed to have your pet in more public places than an animal would normally be allowed. Most of the rules and regulations primarily allow dogs to accompany their owner, but some places will allow other animals. So, if you’re extremely anxious going to a certain place or even flying in a plane, the ESA Doctors may be your ticket to being able to have your pet accompany you. This can also apply if you are moving into a residence that does not allow pets. With a certificate from a licensed physician through the ESA Doctors website, some leasing contracts can be negotiated to allow pets as long as they’re registered as emotional support animals. You can apply for one of these certifications through the questionnaire link below. Their website also provides more information about emotional support pets.
If you’re still struggling with anxiety and depression despite having a loving pet or pets at home and live in the NW Indiana or Chicago area, give use a call at Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. We are located at 6819 W. 167th Street, Tinley Park IL. We can be reached at (708) 633-8000.