3 Ways Having a Pet Improves Our Mental Health
| Written by Amanda Costantino, LCSW
Most of my clients could tell you that I am a dog person after meeting with me once or twice. I almost always share that I have two rescue dogs, because having pets is just one of many ways that I can connect with my clients on a more personal level. I also make sure to ask about pets simply because they provide so many benefits to our physical and mental health. Below are three important ways that pets can improve our lives.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Pets can help to reduce our overall experience of stress, as well as improve our ability to deal with it in the first place. Regular interactions with animals can lead to a decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone), which helps to lower blood pressure and improve overall heart health. Having a pet can sometimes require us to be more physically active in everyday life, which can lead to healthier physical habits and improved means of regulating our emotions. With lower levels of stress, we are more likely to experience happier moods.
Teaches Important Behaviors and Values
Having a pet to care for can help to teach patience, caretaking, and responsibility. Being responsible for your pet’s care can increase feelings of being valued and having personal meaning in your life. Our pets literally depend on us, and in return we get the satisfaction and pride of being able to care for our beloved animals. Animals aid in the building of trust and empathy, not only toward animals, but also toward other people. Interactions with our pets can also help to teach us to be more present and aware of our needs, and even learn better self-care habits.
Provides Companionship and Support
Pet ownership can help to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, especially as we get older. Pets have a way of providing unconditional love and support to us, even on our worst days. Cuddling our pets causes a release of the “happiness” hormone, oxytocin, which increases feelings of connectedness and love. That being said, owning a pet leads to a decrease in feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction in life. In my opinion, nothing is better than the feeling of coming home to your dogs absolutely overjoyed to see you… even if they did just see you a few hours ago.
“Adopt, don’t shop!”
– Winnie and Mocha
Associated Humane Societies – Newark, Tinton Falls, Forked River
A Friendly Disclaimer…🐾
While it is a wonderful feeling to have the companionship of a furry friend, it is important to remember that owning a pet is a long-term commitment that requires time, energy, and love. If you do not feel you are capable of this type of commitment to a pet, there are many other ways to interact with animals. Consider volunteer opportunities at shelters, farms, or even for friends or family! You may also be able to find different therapeutic resources that provide opportunities for equine therapy or animal-assisted therapy/programs in your area to supplement your outpatient therapy.
If you or anyone you know is looking for ways to improve their mental health, please do not hesitate to outreach as a mental health professional can assist you. Licensed professionals can help you talk through your feelings, help identify and break through barriers and help you achieve your goals.
When she’s not working, Amanda loves to spend time with her husband and two rescue dogs. Amanda is determined to foster strong, therapeutic connections with her clients as she believes that everyone deserves to have a space where they feel heard and are safe to heal at their own pace.
EWC has locations in Manalapan and Shrewsbury, NJ, and accepts a variety of insurances.
Check out Amanda’s professional bio here.
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