Emotional Benefits of Pets

Let’s face it, there is no unconditional love quite like that of a pet. Their loving eyes, playful nature and cuddle ability is hard to match! The emotional benefits of pets are tremendous and extend beyond mental wellness to improved physical health. There is ample research supporting the various advantages of owning a loving animal. Here are just a few of the many reasons to relish in the relationship you have with your pet, particularly if you are struggling with anxiety or depression.

1) Your pets keep you moving

Pets need exercise, and you do too. Pets are built in workout partners. Though a pet may not be a marathon-training buddy, your pet will enjoy a variety of activities with you. Whether it is playing in the living room or going out for a walk, a pet fosters activity. It is well known that exercise releases endorphins: a hormone that is a key ingredient in mental well-being. The production of this hormone through exercise can relieve stress, distance your mind from everyday problems, and give you more energy. Why not enjoy that exercise with a four-legged friend?

2) The relationship you have with your pet is simple

The relationship between an owner and his/her pet is much different than other relationships one may have family, friends, and peers. There are no complexities to the relationship with a pet. They don’t criticize you, talk back or argue with you. At the end of the day, you never wonder about where the relationship stands with them. It is healthy for people to feel connected to others, and the same is true for your pet. You may have the steadiest of relationships with your pet, which is an undeniable emotional benefit as a pet owner!

3) Pets keep you social

 Pets also can provide ample opportunities to for interaction with other people as long as you take advantage of a pet’s need to get outdoors. If you go to the park, veterinary office, groomer, or even a walk around the neighborhood, you will see new people and experience new interactions. Pets create a platform for us to interact with others, and they give us a topic for small talk. Even simply the relationship with the pet, has been shown in research to decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation.

4) Taking care of a pet creates a schedule

 When you have the responsibility of taking care of a pet you ideally add more structure to your life. You might have feeding time, play time, walk time, and/or bedtime. Schedules improve the likelihood that your tasks will get done and helps to keep your life organized, setting expectations for each day. The sense of purpose and accomplishment has been shown to help dramatically with depression and anxiety. The power of routine is in providing a foundation, minimizing decisions, and creating habits; and, it is the emotional benefit of having a pet that can drive this.

5) Pets rely on you

 Pets are a big responsibility, but the many emotional benefits of pet ownership make the responsibility worth the while. As you watch your pet grow, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. When you put effort and time into something you love, it feels very empowering to reap the benefits your extensive efforts. You will end up with a loyal friend, who loves you like family. It is extremely rewarding to feel that you are not only dependable and capable, but also depended on, for love and care.

6) Pets motivate you

 Pets provide motivation to their owners. Pets will motivate you to get exercise, meet new people, and keep a routine. Spending time with a pet will motivate you to love, be empathetic, and let yourself feel loved. Pets motivate you to live a healthier life all around.

Most importantly, pets give you companionship! Coming home from work to a pet that is excited and welcoming can be the best way to end a bad day or a wonderful way to make a good day even better. Enjoying the unconditional love, the quiet moments together and the silly playful times as well can provide a wide array of rewarding exchanges for both you and your pet.

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Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Centennial, Colorado. She is an EMDRIA Approved Consultant and Trainer and EMDR Certified Therapist, providing both EMDR trainings and consultation to clinicians as well as specializing in EMDR therapy for people seeking help with trauma, grief and other anxiety related disorders.
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