Photo via Pixabay by Skeeze
For many people who live with a mental health condition, few things are more comforting than a companion animal. Spending time with these creatures can help improve self-esteem, cognitive skills, emotional disorders, and stress or anxiety. Sometimes called service animals, these loyal friends can provide a level of comfort to people suffering from an array of mental health issues.
According to Clinical Psychiatry News, “researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute found that pets provide outlets for empathy, connection, self-efficacy, and support for adults with serious illness.”
"When I'm feeling really low they are wonderful because they won't leave my side for two days. They just stay with me until I am ready to come out of it,” said one study participant of their animals.
Companion animals can also be beneficial to those in recovery, especially in the beginning, when each day is often a battle. These are more than just pets; they are a lifeline for people who have felt that they are trapped. Although the recovery process can be complicated and doesn’t have a time-limit, many individuals who have battled with addiction feel pressure to get through it quickly to prove to their friends and family that they can do it. Speeding up the process can sometimes lead to relapses, however, and having a service animal can help prevent those feelings from ever occurring. Read on here to find out how companion animals can help someone who is going through recovery.
Here are just a few of the ways companion animals can help improve your mental health.
They provide emotional support
Even if you have people in your life who love and support you, living with a mental health condition can make you feel isolated, insecure, and anxious in social situations. Having a strong bond with a companion animal can help you feel calm and better able to handle those situations, and one of the biggest benefits is that they don’t judge the way a human might.
They can help you stay physically healthy
Support animals--particularly dogs--are great motivators when it’s time to get up and get moving. They love exercise and playing. Because many people who suffer from mental health disorders such as depression have a hard time staying active, having an energetic companion is a great way to ensure you’ll get in a workout, even if it’s only for ten or fifteen minutes a day. Staying active is one of the best ways to beat stress and can give you an instant mood boost.
They relieve stress
When it’s been a long day and your stress levels are through the roof, sit down with your pet for a bit and stroke his fur. Concentrate on the feeling of his soft pelt, his warmth, and your own breathing. This is an easy way to meditate when you’re feeling stressed and anxious, and your pet will love it, too.
They require mindful thinking
Mindful thinking simply means focusing on the present moment rather than worrying about the past or future. This can be a difficult thing to do for many people who are living with a mental health condition, but pets make it almost a necessity, as they require you to be present and attend to their needs. They can sense your moods, as well, and bring you comfort when you’re feeling low.
Pets can also help reduce feelings of loneliness and help you feel like you are loved and important. They give a sense of purpose and keep you going even when you feel like giving up. Be sure you can give your companion animal lots of love and attention and he’ll treat you to more of the same.
Jessica is the creator of OurBestFriends.pet. Jessica lives in Dallas, Texas with her loving family (which includes 2 dachshunds and a black lab). She is a certified dog lover, and believes dogs are just about the greatest creatures on earth. She loves collecting and sharing photos of them.