Healthy Coping Skills

Pets are Good for Mental Health


 

I have had so many times in therapy where it seemed like the person I was working with was drinking, using drugs, engaging in risky behavior, feeling depressed, sad, etc. due to a deep feeling that something was missing in life, like there was a hole in his/her heart that needed to be filled by something. This kind of feeling can come about for a variety of reasons, but in my experience often times it has to do with a need for deep, meaningful, close relationships. Sometimes having a pet can help people to fill that hole. Pets provide attachment, unconditional positive regard, company, and numerous other health benefits. Several studies have shown that petting a cat or a dog, or even just having a fish tank in your room can lower your blood pressure, which is a side effect of the relaxing effect pets have on people.

Sometimes it can be helpful in times of difficulty and stress, to take some time to relax and think of your pet’s perspective. Your dog or your cat only cares about the present and the things that are necessary for survival: food, sleep, play, and love. When I was in grad school and found myself getting anxious durring a test I would imagine my cats sleeping or relaxing in the sun, and it reminded me of the temporary nature of my hardships and the bigger picture of life. All hardships are temporary and we live life to its fullest when we live in the moment.

I first heard the talk in the following video several years ago on NPR. It has stuck with me as a small example of the way shifting your perspective can lighten your load in life.

Pets are Good for Mental Health

 

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