Why Having Pets Are Good for the Mind, Body, and Spirit

If you are like me or for some people,and you get some of those “having their moments” kind of day.  You will try your very hardest to get yourself up, and yet so difficult to do so, and all you want to do is stay away from everyone.

Because you are feeling insecure, unsure, worry, scared and shameful that no one would understand what you are going through from the inside. Most people see you as a person who is sad or upset, or in a bad mood, but the real deal is that they have no clue or idea what is truly going on or happening inside your head. So, aside from talking to someone who has a PhD and calls themselves “doctor” or “therapist”, you wouldn’t know where or who else to turn to without having the anxiety that they may be judging you. So, you shut down and stop talking to anyone altogether, and praying to any god out there that this “moment” finally ends.  But what if it doesn’t end!!!

When I am feeling down, sad, lonely and weary or something that I like to call, “BLAH” moment, and I can barely get myself up off of bed, my two dogs and 3 cats come to my rescue. Although very hard to get up because it feels like a two ton elephant is sitting on your head, when I get to thinking that my two dogs are out there, looking forward to their walk, waiting for me to get up and get dressed, I picked myself up and step by step, I get myself ready. I say to myself, it is not their fault that I feel crappy! So, why should they suffer and not get walked?? Also, the thought of having to disappoint them, makes me feel so much worse!! The way I see it, somehow my furry kids motivates me to get up and out that door for a walk. They even get me to smile, no matter how miserable I feel. Deep inside, I can truly say and believe, “I am not alone”.

Speaking from experience, it turns out that all pets, not just therapy pets, can help your mind, body, and spirit, because of how they make me feel. Let me tell you how:

  1. They get me outside: Sun and fresh air elevate my mood and the sun gives me an extra dose of vitamin D. For some of you who doesn’t take Vitamin D supplement, Vitamin D exposure helps fight physical and mental conditions, including depression, cancer, obesity, and heart attacks. Also, when I go outside with my dogs, I am engaging with nature. The sounds and feeling of nature can be incredibly calming and soothing. Being present and engaged with my pets takes my thoughts off of the issues that are plaguing my head. When I am fully in the moment, I do not worry and think about the past or the future. It’s just me and my pets.
  2. They get me moving: Walking my dogs and engaging in outdoors activities like throwing a stick or a ball, gives me a natural energy boost and allows me to let off steam. Studies have shown that animal owners, both adults, and children, have lower blood pressure, as well as lower cholesterol and triglycerides, which may be in part attributed to the more active lifestyle pets promote. Pet owners also have been noted to have better circulation and a lower risk of experiencing major cardiac issues. And when your body feels stronger, you are less susceptible to illness (flu, cold, headache, mental illness, etc.)
  3. Petting reduces stress: I don’t know about those people who have pets, but when I pet or caress my furry babies, mostly my three hairy Maine Coons, I do this rhythmic petting like gesture. I concentrate on the texture of their soft, long fur, the warmth they radiate, and the sound of their deep, loud purrs. 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.
  4. Pets lessen allergies and asthma, and build immunity: This one may sound counterintuitive, the fact that I have asthma and allergy of ANY pets with fur! (How weird is that? LOL). But the fact is, I also have a two-year-old boy. See, I didn’t grow up with pets around me and the first time I was ever around them was when I was 7 years old. They say, children who grow up in homes with pets are actually less likely to develop common allergies. Studies have shown that children who were exposed to two or more dogs or cats as babies were less than half as likely to develop allergies, including dust, grass, ragweed and pet allergies, and were at a lower risk for asthma. Allergies can cause people to become lethargic, uninterested, and suffer from insomnia, which can make them more vulnerable to mental health issues, such as depression. Nonetheless, I take daily over the counter allergy medication and in case, I have my “puffer” with me at all times. And so far, my son is not showing any sign of asthma and allergies.
  5. They lessen loneliness: If you don’t like to be alone, pets can be a great source of domestic companions. Often a pet is very intuitive and will seek you out when you’re feeling down, refusing to allow you to remain sad. When I feel down and/or moody, and I just want to be left alone, there are moments that my furry babies, mostly when they are all over me, being needy and demanding for attentions, I will honestly say they all get on my nerve and I get very annoyed at them. When I take a little step back and think, they don’t mean to be annoying, they are actually empathizing with my feeling. If you are thinking of getting a companion animal, just make sure you can fully care for and love them before you take them home. Pets should not be used to fill a temporary void and then pushed aside. A dog or cat is a full-time and long-term commitment, and it’s not always easy, but if you are up to it, they can provide much love through the good times and the bad.
  6. They are great listeners: I can talk to my furry babies about anything! About my day, my hopes, my expectations and pretty much everything! I can practice a speech with them, cry about my disappointments or frustrations, or total truths that I, sometimes afraid or embarrassed to actually share with my husband, family, and friends. A dog or cat can be the perfect “person” to go to when you want to vent without any potential repercussions or having the thought(s) of anyone judging you back. For me, I find they are so much better of a listener than my therapist.
  7. They love you unconditionally: Seeing their enthusiasm when you walk in the door can be an instant mood-lifting boost. When I see their tails wagging, whining due to excitement, tongue hanging out their mouth making  it look like they are smiling at you, the way their ears perk up and the way they grunts and purrs, what an awesome feeling it is to know that I matter! They don’t care if something bad happened at work, or I had a fight with one of my friends, or I am frustrated because my kid won’t stop screaming, or I had a misunderstanding with my husband, they love me for being me, whatever that means on any given day. They are just happy to see me. They want to be around me, to love me, and be loved by me.
  8. They give me purpose: Having a pet to care for can give you a feeling of purpose, which can be crucial when you are feeling really down and overwhelmed by negative thoughts. By caring for my furry kids and my little boy, I am focusing on something other than myself and my life. My good deeds and my furry babies positive response gives me a feeling of instant gratification.
  9. They make me smile: When my dogs and cats do cute and crazy things like rolling on their back, or putting a paw up to give me high five and sometimes high ten, do a little dance of excitement, run around in circles like a maniac, those truly make me smile, which in turn triggers my neurotransmitters to fire. These pet-time smiles raise my serotonin and dopamine levels, which are nerve transmitters associated with calmness and happiness.

With the grind of daily life, sometimes we forget to just let loose and have fun. I say, “go ahead”. Wrestle, play catch, dance together, or just run around and act silly. Your dog will appreciate it and love you for it.

So go have some crazy fun with your furry babies! Have a ball, with a ball, go for a nice long walk, or do anything else, and you will both benefit from the pleasurable time together and will strengthen the bond between you and your furry kids.

And if you don’t have a pet or can’t get one right now, you can volunteer at a shelter. There are many animals that can still benefit from your love and your time, and you will feel the benefits, too.