Before jumping to that topic, this is assuming the individual is in a sufficient position to have a pet. This would include the ability to keep up with the pet’s physical and emotional needs, expenses, and medical upkeep! Once that is met, let’s dive in!
1.Physical activity – especially if you have a pet such as a dog, it’s great to get yourself and your pet into a physical activity routine. Dogs typically go to the bathroom outside. Although some owners opt to let them out in the yard, it’s even better to make it a full out walk a few times a day. This would get your natural endorphins pumping and can potential help symptoms of depression. Being outdoors also exposes you to more sunlight, enhancing your vitamin D levels — low levels have been associated with psychiatric symptoms. In addition, burning a few more calories a day can also help keep weight in check when part of a healthy lifestyle plan of good diet and exercise.
2.Adding structure to your day – having a pet holds us responsible for another being. They need to be cleaned up after, go to the bathroom, be fed regularly. This forces us out of bed and helps to enforce a schedule and regularity in our day to day life. In contrast, if we had nothing forcing us out of bed and we stayed very sedentary, this is a very easy way to exacerbate any mental health symptoms we have.
3.Providing companionship – let’s not underestimate the power of validation, companionship, and unconditional love. There is clinical literature suggesting the pure love pets offer us can be tremendously healing. This in turn can boost our confidence and trust in others a bit more, giving us a few more tools to integrate with others in the community and hopefully build more meaningful relationships for a better quality of life. So don’t be embarrassed! Go ahead and have a conversation with your pet! Brag about your pet and what a great friend she/he is – most would agree that humans can learn a lot from animals and that pets are great friends. If you have a pet who can go on a walk with you, they often make great conversation starters too!