#stayhomestayhopeful - The Benefits Of Time With Our Furry Friends
April 07, 2020
By Allison Todd, LCSW, Primary Therapist
In times of stress and uncertainty, we look for things that provide us comfort and stability. For some, that may be talking to friends and loved ones, taking a hot bath, or reading a good book. For others, it is spending time with their furry friends.
Here's how pets can help with mental health during COVID-19:
Affection & Touch
It has long been known that animals help us feel better; there is now science to back it up. Bonding with our animals helps reduce stress by triggering oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone.
Studies have shown that after just five minutes of petting or playing with an animal, people experience decreased feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as lower blood pressure and heart rates. Our pets help us feel less isolated and lonely by providing that companionship and giving us unconditional love and affection.
Basically, when we smile and laugh at our pet’s cute behavior, it helps to stimulate the release of “happiness hormones” of serotonin and dopamine.
Getting outside in nature, especially during this time of quarantine, is another way that we can help to ease anxious feelings or thoughts and improve our mental health. What better way to distract yourself than to go for a long walk with your dog? Not only do you get fresh air and sunshine, but you also benefit from being with a trusted companion.
Mindfulness & Routine
In today’s current situation, it can be easy to allow our thoughts to wander into the future, which can increase levels of anxiety.
Animals live in the moment; they aren’t worried about what might happen tomorrow or next week. As a result, spending time with them can help us be more mindful, bringing and keeping our attention to the present.
Lastly, many people are struggling with the lack of control over what is going on in the world and the uncertainty of when things will return to normal. Caring for our pets, especially at a time like this, can give their owners a feeling of being in control, as well as providing them with a sense of purpose, security and routine.
Olive and I have been going on long walks, spending time in our neighborhood park, and playing ball in the backyard. She also loves to snuggle and have her belly rubbed, and we have taken some good quality naps together. She has been practicing some new tricks, and attempting to play with our two cats, who aren’t at all interested! Sometimes, the most calming thing of all is to just sit and look into her eyes. She is still eating her frozen carrots daily and has now discovered her love of apple slices.
And as HopeWay's pet therapy dog, she misses all the clients and cannot wait to get back to work!
Learn More About Pet Therapy