Jan 11

Improving Your Mental Health with a Companion Animal

Guest Post by Jessica Brody

Creator of OurBestFriends.pet


Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.—Anatole France

It is safe to say that people really love having pets. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, about 72 percent of households in the United States own a pet, and it is no wonder with all the amazing benefits they provide: companionship, loyalty, and even increased physical and mental health.  If you are managing mental health issues and are debating whether to get a companion animal, here are some benefits to consider.

Combat Feelings of Isolation

Mental health challenges can often leave you feeling isolated. Social stigmas or health symptoms may be preventing you from getting out and socializing as much as you once did.
A pet can help you feel less lonely. Additionally, in many cases, they are intuitive enough to sense if you are feeling down or ill, and they will make an effort to comfort you.

The Rewards of Being a Caregiver

At times, people suffering from mental disorders tend to withdraw. This often means that someone is barely functioning enough to care for oneself, and perhaps even that is a struggle. Owning a pet requires taking care of another being and essentially can force someone to function — their pet is counting on them for survival. The responsibility of caring for a living thing can be just the tonic one needs to counteract despair.

Help with Mental Health Disorders

If you are suffering from mental illness that is characterized by aggressive outbursts like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or PTSD, you can also a consider a mental health service dog. These animals are trained to alert when you are suffering from an emotional attack, and they can soothe their owners by lying with them, licking them or distracting them.

Addiction Recovery

One of the most critical components of addiction recovery is a strong support system, and support can be of the four-legged variety. The unconditional love of a companion animal can be invaluable to reducing stress and coping with triggers associated with addiction. The moment a pet realizes he is yours and you are his, you become instant partners without hesitation. He will be by your side the moment you need him, and always give you the benefit of the doubt. This isn’t always an easy trait to find in a human companion.

Turn Your Frown Upside Down

When you smile at your pet, your serotonin and dopamine levels rise, which can improve your mood and increase happiness.

Which Pet is Right for You?

With all these benefits, who could resist? Now that you are on board, it is time to start the selection process.

If you are a first time pet owner, you will want to make some careful considerations when choosing your new family member. While dogs and cats are the most common, other unique options can also be considered.

According to ASPCA, other suitable species are horses, rabbits, ferrets, birds, guinea pigs and select other small mammals, small reptiles and fish. Make sure to leave the tempting monkeys and snakes at the zoo.

To find an animal that is a good match, look for these attributes:

  • Size: Large pets need space to roam. Unless they are low energy, like Great Danes, large pets are not suitable for cramped spaces like an apartment. Small- to medium-sized animals are better suited for small areas. Choose a pet that will be comfortable in your living space.
  • Activity Level: Having a companion that needs activity can rub off on its owner in the form of better exercise habits. However, some pets may be too active. Be sure to choose a companion that best fits your activity level.
  • Age: Younger animals, especially puppies, need extra care and responsibility. This may prove difficult for some owners. Older companions are often better as emotional companions as they are more docile. Consider the right age for your specific needs.

Final Thoughts

Loving an animal, and receiving their love in return can, as author Anatole France said, “awaken the soul.” Their unconditional companionship in times of emotional strife can lead you to more personal peace. Consider the pet that will best meet your needs, one that you will accept as a family member, and one you intend to keep and care for, forever. Not only will you find joy and acceptance, but you will find the love of a lifetime.

Jessica Brody created OurBestFriends.pet to offer a place for animal lovers to share their favorite pet photos and stories about their furry pals.

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