We often hear about the physical health benefits of having a pet but as important is how pets improve mental health. There is a lot of press lately on techniques to help with our mental health including: meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and keeping a positive attitude. These are all great tools that we can use to help alleviate anxiety and stress. Another great tool is to adopt a pet.
Pets enrich our lives in many ways. They give us a sense of purpose, knowing that we have a living being dependent on us for shelter, food, and love (among other things). It’s important for us to have a sense of purpose so that we’re not simply going through the motions everyday, instead thinking about our loved ones and that includes our pets.
Dogs and cats give us comfort, regularly looking to snuggle up with us or give us a sweet lick on the face. They love us unconditionally and that is a comfort that we can depend on. I know that there have been times that I’ve been stressed out and then brought to calmness by spending some time with my cat or dog and simply putting the focus on them.
Having pets puts a balance in our lives. Dogs and cats keep us from totally focusing on work by forcing us to make sure we are available to spend quality time and provide for their needs. That balance helps our minds switch from stressful contexts (the needs of our jobs) to mindful contexts (the needs of our mental health).
One of the great things that pets help us with is compassion. We really can understand the needs of others through our relationships with pets. Pets have compassion for us, as they seem to recognize when we’re not feeling well or when other pets in the household are ill. And the reverse is true as we feel compassion for our pets when they are going through an illness or just looking for some love.
Science has proven that reducing stress and anxiety will help us live longer and higher quality lives. It’s also been proven that pets improve mental health. Think about adopting a cat or a dog (or both) to help you lead the best life possible.