Pets are kind of on my mind today. My little monster Squeaky-bear is always at the forefront. He is a huge part of my life and my Wellness Plan. But today an article popped up on my neighborhood bulletin board that made me sad. Twenty-three dogs are being euthanized because a local shelter is closing. I am sad for the dogs, of course, but also sad for the people they could be helping. Having a pet can literally save your life.
A Powerful Truth
Sounds dramatic, I know, but in one study respondents actually told researchers that knowing their pet depended on them for care deterred them when they had suicidal thoughts! Life-saving indeed. When you are down in that pit, having something to cling to makes all the difference.
Aside from the big, dramatic moments, pets also help people with mental illness cope with day to day issues. When you have a pet, you have an imposed schedule of sorts that you must follow. They need to be fed regularly, walked or cleaned up after, played with, bathed. It is not something you can ignore or put off indefinitely. It gets you moving and keeps you moving. It helps you to focus outward, at least for a short time, which can be a difficult thing when you are wrestling with mental illness.
More Than Mental Health
Cuddling or petting an animal has been shown to relieve stress and lower heart rate and blood pressure. And people with pets tend to get more exercise. Owning a pet not only benefits your mental health, it benefits your physical health as well. Bonus: Better physical health leads to better mental health. Nothing vicious about this cycle. It leads you up and out, instead of keeping you trapped.
More Than Cats and Dogs
Not a dog person? Allergic to cats? Good news! All kinds of pets benefit your mental health. One study by Gerontology gave elderly people crickets. Caring for them improved their moods over the course of the 8-week study. In an Alzheimer’s facility, patients who ate near an aquarium were calmer, less likely to wander and ate more. Horses have long been used for therapy, helping patients to deal with anxiety and PTSD. It is the act of caring for another life that matters, more than the type of pet. Even a spider would work. (Ewww….) Click To Tweet
Adopt Pets, Don’t Shop
If I have convinced you a pet is exactly what you need in your life, before you run to the nearest pet store, stop and think. There are thousands of animals in shelters and rescues who need a good home. They have all kinds of love to give. They need you as much as you need them. Even if you are thinking of a guinea pig, check Petfinder.com or Google guinea pig rescue before you buy. They will pay you back a thousand-fold or more.
If you struggle with loneliness, depression or anxiety, a pet may be the perfect addition to your Wellness Plan. Click To Tweet You may even find yourself making new friends! Most importantly, you will feel better. No, it will not make your mental illness go away. But it will make some of the rougher parts of it easier to manage.
Do you have a pet? Are you considering one? What would be the perfect pet for you? Let me know.