Many of the emotional benefits of spending time with pets can be hard to define in clinical terms. The medical model that we are conditioned to doesn’t recognize love as a real force behind emotional health and well-being. But to a large extent, we are happiest when our lives present us with opportunities to give and receive love. Many pet owners believe that animals provide us with these opportunities. The unconditional love and acceptance that our pets offer us can benefit us, both psychologically and emotionally, in numerous ways.
Perhaps the greatest miracles are wrought by the ways in which animals can feed our self-esteem. Sometimes people undergoing medical care recover from their afflictions not because of any procedures or medicines but rather because all the efforts made on their behalf convince them of their own worth. Believing that our lives have value will nurture us physically, mentally and emotionally. If you share your life with a loving pet then you are mirrored, every day, by a living being that never doubts your worth for a moment.
This is part of the reason why many of us will instinctively turn to our pets when we're feeling upset and/or bereaved. The other part of the equation is the therapeutic value of touch. Modern science has outlined some of the physiological benefits of petting an animal. Our heart rate slows, our blood pressure is lowered and we feel our stress level drop. The emotional benefits can be more difficult to quantify, although many pet owners are intuitively aware of them. Physical touch constitutes a demonstration of the unconditional love that our animals hold for us. It can help people who live without human companionship feel less lonely.
Our pets depend upon us for their survival. Many of them have been domesticated for so long that they no longer possess the skills necessary to fend for themselves. Although this places responsibility on our shoulders it also carries powerful emotional benefits. It is good for us to feel needed. If we don’t experience this with a spouse or child then we’re likely to find it with a pet. The very act of caring for animals that depend on us can make us feel empowered, capable and generous. Also, it can lend a healthy structure to our daily lives. While existence may seem haphazard and unpredictable at times, we find an oasis of consistency when such ritual activities as walks and feedings must occur every day.
Our pets can also ease fear, which is an emotion that can take a toll on our emotional (and even physical) well-being. Many dog owners feel safer – both in their homes and when they’re out on walks – than people who live alone for example. By its very nature, companionship eases anxiety. This is particularly true if we feel that our pets are loyal to us. Some dogs, of course, can act as a real deterrent to aggressors who might do us harm. Their presence in our lives can put our minds at ease.
We would love to hear your thoughts. Tell us how loving your pet has benefitted your life.