We’re all looking for new ways to thrive, and in this high-tech, fast-paced, anonymous world, it can be difficult to address all of the physical, mental, and emotional needs that we, as humans, face every day.
As a freelance writer who has worked from home in my jammies every day for the past decade, I have struggled with things like:
- having a social life
- getting exercise
- eating (too much, too little, garbage foods)
- remembering to shower
- getting super-lonely
But, do you know what has helped me more than anything? It’s my pets. Especially, in my case, my two dogs. And it’s no wonder: pets have a great deal to offer, and they can boost our health and wellness in a number of ways.
Anxiety and stress
Numerous studies have shown that those of us who have pets and interact with them regularly tend to have lower levels of stress and anxiety. Sometime, all it takes is the sound of a cat purring or the feeling of a dog at your feet to melt away worry.
Exercise and heart health
Believe or not, the American Heart Association released a statement linking dog ownership to lower levels of cardiovascular risk. And it’s not that far-fetched (see what I did there?) when you think about it. One, having a dog lowers your level of stress. And two, owning a dog probably means that you also walk that dog regularly, which also provides regular, heart-healthy exercise for you.
There has been lots of research linking pet ownership to better relationships, less loneliness, and greater social support. Specifically:
- People who love animals tend to be more involved in the community and take on more leadership roles.
- Children who have pets have stronger social skills, and even those with autism develop better social behaviors if they regularly interact with animals.
- Dog owners often report meeting new people and making new friends when they have their dog to help break the ice.
With about 20% of Americans dealing with mental illness (and that’s just the ones who report it), mental health is an issue of epidemic proportions.
One study found that as many as 60% of mentally ill patients regarded their pets as being the most important factor in helping them to manage their illness and their day-to-day lives.
Caring for pets helps us feel a greater sense of control, and helps us establish routines and habits in our lives that offer a sense of security. Having a companion animal in the home even reduces the risk and severity of serious conditions like depression.
Is a pet right for you?
Only you can make the decision of whether you have the time, love, and need for a pet. There is certainly no shortage of companion animals who desperately need homes, and adopting a pet in need can offer a rewarding experience like no other.
If you’re nervous about becoming a pet owner for the first time, read up on everything you need to know before making your decision.