At a time of social distancing, pets can bring joy, comfort, and companionship to the many who are staying at home. Whether it’s walking your dog, petting your cat, or feeding your fish, taking care of an animal can create a sense of normalcy during an abnormal time.
Elliott Goodness, Program Coordinator at Genesee Behavioral Health Center, explains how having a pet can be beneficial to your mental health and well-being.
For many, animals act as a source of comfort and support. If you have a pet, you probably don’t need research to know that they can help improve your mood. Nevertheless, several studies have shown that pets can make you happier.
Contact with pets can counteract stress responses by lowering levels of stress hormones and reducing heart rate. A study conducted by Washington State University found that 10 minutes of petting an animal can considerably lower feelings of anxiety and stress.
Pets can also reduce stress by:
Physical responses to pets are not only beneficial to your current mood, but to long-term health.
A study published by the American Heart Association found that frequent interaction with a pet can reduce the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure.
Staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic has caused many routines and schedules to change. Constant disruptions in daily life and the uncertainty of the future may increase anxiety and depression. Having a pet can help manage these feelings in various ways.
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“Pets can be very grounding. They need us, which provides purpose and meaning when we’re there for them,” explains Goodness.
The consistency of caring for a pet, like walking a dog every day, helps bring routine into daily life.
For those who don’t have a pet already, fostering or adopting one can be a great way to maintain mental health. With the extra time at home, now is a great time to foster an animal.
“Keep in mind that adopting a pet comes with a lot of responsibility. Remember that once we’re able to go back outside, owning a pet will require a shift in lifestyle.”
If you foster an animal now, you can decide later whether or not you have the proper lifestyle to adopt the pet permanently.
Any kind of animal can have a positive effect on mental health. The animal that is best suited as a pet varies from person to person. There are plenty of options when deciding to adopt a pet.
“Do some research and see what’s best for each individual,” Goodness recommends.
As the future remains uncertain and our lives continue to change, increased stress, anxiety, and depression are not uncommon. Caring for a pet is just one of the ways to boost your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. There are plenty of options for support and ways to seek help at any time.
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