Having pets is beneficial in many ways, with easing symptoms of anxiety being at the top of the list. There are many ways they help with mental health issues, and sometimes it’s as simple as providing companionship.
An animal can typically help in this way just by being present. They may offer a cuddle, a wet nose, a lick to your face, or any other regular action to help distract you. Aside from providing a positive distraction, they can help bring you an overall sense of well-being.
The effectiveness of pets helping to beat anxiety is well known, and many studies have been done on the topic. Some pet owners even have their animals registered as service animals when they help ease anxious feelings. Having them registered is not necessary, however, unless you plan on bringing them to places like grocery stores or schools.
Ten Ways That Pets Help Beat Anxiety
Since animals can help reduce anxious feelings, those who suffer from this mental health issue should consider getting one. It’ll help make the everyday anxieties of life more manageable. Plus, your pet could help prevent the feelings from ever settling in to begin with.
1. Help with Easing Fearful Feelings
Animals can sense when you are afraid, and they’ll comfort you during that time. They may lick your face or climb into your lap. It’s their way of distracting you and reminding you that you aren’t alone.
When you are afraid, it could be their way of telling you that there is nothing to be scared of. Your pet will bring you comfort during this time. Before you know it, you’ll always turn to your pet when you begin to feel afraid of something.
2. They Encourage Socialization
If you feel anxious in social situations, this one will be especially helpful for you. They can help relieve anxious feelings because they offer something to talk about. People love to talk about animals, so getting through social interaction is easy when you have your pet nearby.
Even general mental health issues can be alleviated when animals encourage socialization. Socializing can ease anxious feelings and lead to better overall mental health.
If you have a dog, you’ll be more social than many others. This outcome is because you’ll find yourself having a conversation with other dog owners when you are out walking your dog. Even if the conversation is just in passing, you’ll feel more connected and less isolated, easing some of the stress.
3. Pets Help You Feel Like You Aren’t Alone
When you’ve had a long, hard day and are feeling lonely or isolated, a pet can help cheer you up. They’ll be right there when you get in the house, and they’ll be ready for cuddles, rubs, and playtime. Animals offer their owners a feeling of unconditional love and companionship.
Sometimes, even when you’re lonely, you don’t feel like seeing other people or being social. When you think this way, it’s still essential to have some form of companionship. They have a calming influence and will make you feel better about yourself when you’re feeling down.
4. Pets Make You Feel Needed
Since animals are always happy to see their owner, you’ll always feel needed and wanted in their presence. They give you a purpose and a sense of meaning in life when you would otherwise feel useless. Even if your pet doesn’t interact, it can still ease your anxious feelings and help you feel better.
A study shows the effects animals have on older people regarding their mental health. In this study, crickets were put in a cage in the older person’s room. The person’s mood was monitored over eight weeks.
The results of this study showed that the mood of all participants was lifted during those eight weeks. Their depression was lessened, as well as their anxious feelings.
A control group was included in this study, and it provided the same results. Those in the control group who had no pets showed no improvement in their mental health. Meaning, the animals provided the elderly person with improved mental health.
5. They Help You Get More Exercise
If you own a dog, this is especially true for you. Dogs have to burn energy, and they like to do this by walking and running.
As the dog’s owner, the responsibility to make sure they are getting their exercise falls to you. Because of this, studies show that dog owners are more likely to meet exercise requirements each day than others.
Since exercise is known to improve your mental health, it is a sure way to ease anxious feelings. So, when you are feeling anxious, remind yourself of this and take your dog on a walk or jog. You’ll both benefit from it, and the time spent with your pet will help even more.
6. Pets can Help Raise Your Self-Esteem
In a group of studies published by the American Psychological Association, it was determined that animals help with self-esteem. These studies were conducted by psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University. They showed that those who have animals in their home have higher self-esteem and can bounce back from rejection easier.
When you have better self-esteem, you’ll feel less anxious. The study showed that when something happened, that could lower your self-esteem, animals eased that effect. This is because they give you a feeling that you aren’t alone, and that you are always loved.
If you write about the bad experience and then write about your pet, you’ll feel better about the situation. The same could be said about your thought process, too. So, if you don’t have paper and a pen, think about your pet instead.
7. You’ll Be Less Preoccupied
When you stress and worry about things you can’t control, you’ll quickly become anxious. This is easy to do when you can’t stop thinking about what is bothering you.
A pet can help distract you from those thoughts, however. It could be a gentle brush against your leg or a whine to remind you they need dinner. No matter what it is, their action may be all it takes to clear your head.
8. They Help You Live in the Moment
While humans worry about the past and future, animals don’t even consider it. They only care about what is going on right now, and they’ll help you begin to think that way, too.
One way they can help you live in the moment is by showing you how they do it. When you see your pet lying in the rays of light coming through the window, you’ll be reminded. They’ll also do it by sitting in the window sill enjoying the scenery outside of the window.
No matter what is going on in your mind, a pet may jump on your lap and demand cuddles or rubs. When this happens, it’ll help you refocus your thoughts to the present. Likewise, going through the motions of caring for a pet helps you focus on the present, too.
9. Pets Help You Develop Emotional Regulation Skills
Taking care of an animal is one of the best ways to learn to take care of another being. Taking care of a pet will teach you empathy, which is one of the best ways to develop these skills. When you begin thinking of what your pet needs or wants, you’ll learn to do the same for human beings.
You’ll also cope with stress and anxious feelings better if you have a pet. By simply rubbing your pet’s fur, you’ll instantly relax a little. The longer you spend with your pet, the better you’ll feel.
10. You’ll Develop Better Sleeping Habits
When you have a pet, you have to take care of them even when you’d rather sleep. They may have to be let out in the morning, which will force you to get out of bed. If they don’t have to be let outside, they’ll still have to eat after a long night.
Since anxious feelings can be worsened through negative sleep habits, this can help immensely. Likewise, getting out of bed earlier will help you get more done throughout the day. This rest can also help with your anxious feelings since you won’t feel like you have so much to do later.
Pets are more than just a fun thing to have in your home. They offer many benefits, including helping to beat anxiety. This is a big deal for those who know what their feelings are like and how debilitating they can be.
With a pet in your home, you’ll be able to relax a little and live a healthier life. You’ll feel wanted and loved, needed, and have more social interactions. Plus, you’ll develop better sleeping habits, build your emotional regulation skills, and have a higher sense of self-esteem.
The benefits don’t stop there, either, with pets helping you to live in the moment and be less preoccupied. They will also help ease feelings of loneliness or fear, both of which often lead to anxiety. If you suffer from this mental health condition, you should consider adopting a pet to help you beat it.