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How Pets Can Help You Mentally

By Elliot Caleira

Introduction

Spending time caring for a pet each day is a great way to improve your mental health, increase clarity, and calm your mind. The process of holding or petting an animal can even bring down high blood pressure!

Improve Your Outlook With a Pet

One of the best aspects of choosing and caring for a pet is that you can help another living creature. For anyone suffering from isolation or loneliness, the sense of feeling useless or as though they are not contributing to anyone's betterment can be crippling. The process of working with a pet of any age, from a senior rescue dog or a charming group of goldendoodle puppies, gives meaning to life.

Communicate Freely With a Pet

Pets give people someone to talk to. From lonely senior citizens to children with ADHD, time with a pet offers those who feel voiceless a friend who always listens.

This communication option even helps those with Alzheimer's reduce anxiety borne of confusion, frustration and communication challenges.

It's important to note that physical connection with a living animal is key. While stuffed toys are calming to hold and stroke, long term improvements in mood, focus and anxiety reduction are most effective when study participants are stroking the fur, petting the ears, or cuddling with a living pet.

Calming the Body as Well as the Mind

High blood pressure causes long term damage to the brain as well as many other organs and can lead to early death. However, time spent stroking a pet can help you to reduce your pulse, even out your respirations, and lower your blood pressure.

Addressing Mental Illness With the Help of a Pet

The isolation inherent in mental illness can lead many sufferers to feel unwelcome or simply invisible. However, by encouraging a mentally ill person to connect with pets at a treatment facility researchers are finding that this isolation fades as those in treatment take on the task of caring for the animals.

The process of learning to love another creature can become stunted in a mentally ill person. Conditions such as depression, PTSD, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder gain stability and meaning from caring for pets. Again, communication and touch are key. Those who are able to learn to handle and communicate with the animals gain a great sense of acceptance and love from the pets they work with, as well as learning a sense of responsibility in successfully caring for another living creature.

Pets and Depression

Humans learn to hide mental stress and anxiety from one another, particularly as mental health challenges carry such heavy stigma. However, animals are harder to fool! Many who suffer from depression and anxiety find that their pets know when they're struggling and will press to be closer and maintain contact with their suffering human.

This physical closeness offers those who suffer from conditions such as depression and anxiety that lead people to shut themselves off from others can provide a healthy touch and connection until the depressive episode passes.

Additionally, taking on the ownership of a pet requires the human to provide the pet with scheduled care. From feeding your dog or cat to going out for walks or changing the litterbox, the human must keep to some sort of a schedule for the well-being of the pet. Again, this care requires care and forces the human to break out of the isolation inherent in their condition.

Pets and the Autism Spectrum

Communication and companionship are vital to all of us, but those on the Autism spectrum can struggle to make social connections. Particularly for children, a gentle dog is a great choice that will give the child someone to talk to who makes no corrections or judgments.

Final Thoughts

Pets are a great way to fight loneliness and build a sense of responsibility and purpose. If communication is a challenge or if stress makes connections with other humans difficult, a pet can help you through the toughest times.

Elliot CaleiraElliot Caleira is a freelance writer in the self-mastery and health and wellness spaces. When he's not writing you'll find him cooking or teaching Portuguese classes. More articles by Elliot.

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