Fluffy Can Help with a Healthy Recovery
You won’t find “get a pet” on the doctor’s prescription pad, but pets should be close to the top of any doctor’s list of recommendations for healthy coping in recovery.
Numerous studies show that animals can reduce tension and improve our mood, and after any traumatic event, it’s possible that a furry, feathered, or finned critter could be just the life-saver a recovering person needs.
Pets also provide emotional support—they not only need love, they appear to give it. There are a number of health benefits pets can influence, like increasing serotonin and dopamine levels in the body, and calming the nervous system and heart rate.
Here are some reasons you might consider turning to a pet for help when you’re recovering from any type of trauma:
You’ll learn the importance of self-care:
Many times we can become so busy and stressed to the point where we forget to take care of our physical and mental health. Taking care of a pet can encourage you to get up and also take the time to care for yourself.
You’ll live in the moment, not the past:
Pets likely think in the moment; they do not worry about the past or about what could happen. If you put your attention on your pet and follow this example, you’ll be more focused on the present, which can help reduce anxiety.
You’ll smile more and feel calmer:
Pets can remind their owners to play—something many individuals have forgotten how to do—and to laugh.
You’ll get your exercise:
Exercise is beneficial in many ways during any recovery—it’s a stress reliever in itself. If your pet is a dog, you’re likely to go on at least one daily walk. Dog washing is another sure way to exercise. If you have a cat or other small pet that likes to play, running around with a laser light or feather toy a couple of times a day can be a fun way to get in a few extra steps.
You’ll meet new people:
If you take your pet with you to the pet store, vet appointments, or on vacations, you’re bound to run into other pet owners, who always seem to be up for a pet chat. In recovery, it can be tough reviving or practicing new social skills, but pets provide a great conversation starter.
You’ll develop a routine:
You have to feed pets regularly, and some require an exercise schedule, as well. A regular routine can help provide the structure most recovering individuals need.
Note that it’s important to be ready for a pet before taking on the responsibility. If a pet seems like too much commitment, consider volunteering at a local shelter, fostering for an animal rescue organization, or petsitting for a friend before taking on a pet.