Blog written by Jessica Brody
It’s no surprise the calming affect animal companionship can have on us. In general, they tend to lessen anxiety levels by taking our mind off stressful things and allowing us to be ourselves. What's more, according to the Huffington Post, “When you connect with your pet, oxytocin, the hormone related to stress and anxiety relief, is released, helping to reduce blood pressure and lower cortisol levels.”
Therefore, if a person is struggling to manage their mental illness, an animal might be able to give them the tools to do so. Because they need to be fed and taken out constantly, they provide structure and routine. Additionally, instead of allowing a person to withdraw, they keep you involved, active, and outside -- enjoying the benefits of being in nature.
Isolation so often accompanies mental illness and the deep connection a person has with their pet offers emotional support otherwise unavailable, reports drugrehab.org. They are a great conversation starter and can help connect you with others whose pets are also a big part of their lives. This socialization is key when increasing behavioral abilities and confidence levels. Even in the darkest depression, a pet won’t abandon their caretaker and will remain a steady friend and family member.
Having a pet in sobriety can be an important step in regaining mental health in that it gives you a sense of meaning and purpose. Chances are, during recovery, big lifestyle changes have been made that can make a person feel alienated and alone. However, a pet gives you unconditional love and according to the Los Angeles Times, “Healthy stimulation of the brain's pleasure center is a positive step toward recovery from addiction.” Caring for another living being also allows a person to understand the importance of responsibility and building trust.
However, choosing the right pet for you and your lifestyle is important in making sure you are able to fulfill their needs and bond appropriately. Also think about the cost of caring for them, as well as the time and living space he or she will take up. According to Time Magazine, research supports interaction with animals like fish, because of their bright colors and the soothing nature of watching them swim, horses, due to their vast intelligence and bonding habits, cats and dogs, because they are playful as well as active, and birds who are smart and social. The American Psychiatric Association also points out that “specially trained therapy dogs help people with a variety of mental health conditions, including, dementia and Alzheimer’s, depression, PTSD, and autism.”
No matter the kind of animal you have as a pet, they are guaranteed to bring loads of happiness and laughter into your life. Even if a person is alienated and misunderstood by family and friends, an animal cannot see their disorder.