It is incredible to consider all that pets do for our lives. For many of us pet owners, nothing could replace the void left behind when a pet is no longer with us. It is easy to underestimate the benefits a pet can bring into one’s life—particularly mental health benefits. Danielle Hark, a writer and certified life coach, describes twelve benefits of owning a pet:
- They get you outside and get you moving: When you are responsible for another life, you consider those things they need to be happy. Going outside is something many pets need; you need it too. However, you cannot always convince yourself. There is nothing better than having someone to drag you out for some vitamin D. “Vitamin D exposure helps fight physical and mental conditions, including depression, cancer, obesity, and heart attacks” explained Hark. Lower your blood pressure, get outside and keep moving. Nothing better than someone reminding you that it’s time for your daily walk. Exercise is always easier with an encouraging partner.
- They lessen allergies and asthma, and build immunity:As odd as this may be, Hark found that “Children who were exposed to two or more dogs or cats as babies were less than half as likely to develop allergies, including dust, grass, ragweed and pet allergies, and were at a lower risk for asthma.”
- Petting reduces stress and lets you play:The act of petting your pet has multiple benefits, including calming you down, reducing stress, the physiological bonding with your pet (this app app for vets will give you more info on how to keep your pets safe). Playing with your pet has similar benefits in addition to getting you some exercise and playfulness. Playing with your pets allows for you to act silly and to bond with your friend.
- They distract you and keep you present:Pets can distract you from daily stresses; remember, suppression is your friend. At other times, your pet can cause you to be present with them in the moment through play and through their endless charm.
- They minimize loneliness and can lessen isolation:Pets help you feel loved and needed. Not only are they someone to care of, but also they return love that you give them. Having a “cuddle-buddy” significantly reduces symptoms of depression. Additionally, if you are a dog lover, walking your pet it gives you opportunities to socialize and potentially even meet someone new.
- They’re great listeners and they make you smile:You can talk to your pet about anything and they won’t tell a soul—except other animals, perhaps. They will listen and offer you a chance to get things off of your chest. Not to mention that they are great at making you smile – especially if you are feeling particularly down. Pets are known to empathize with their owners.
- They love you unconditionally:No matter how terrible your day may have been, the second you come home, many pets approach you and remind you that none of that matters anymore and everything will be OK. They are your support system and love you without having to actually say the words. Their excited face is often enough to know how much they care about you.
- They can give you a purpose:Having someone who depends on you and needs you to survive is a tough, yet pleasant, responsibility. Knowing they need you gives you purpose and takes you away from your immediate problems at least for a moment.
Pets are worth the responsibility if you can manage one (or more); the benefits surpass the sacrifices by a wide margin. If you do not think you can have a pet right now, it’s OK – there are so many shelters that need people to come by and play with their animals – there is more than enough love to go around.
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