As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, it’s pretty much impossible for me to feel as happy as I can without an animal around. It started in college when a therapist told me I needed to learn to focus on something besides myself (which, as a personal essayist I’ll be the first to admit—fuck yeah, I do), which is why I’ve had animals in my life since then moving forward.
I’m not saying getting an animal is easy, or even fun all the time, but it has honestly been one of the things that has greatly contributed to my sanity. If you suffer from feeling anxious all the time, I first want to say that you’re not alone, and I understand how isolating it can feel at times. Below you’ll find five reasons that having an animal can help you.
1. You’re able to focus outward.
Being an extremely anxious person, you probably spend most of your days living inside your own head. Oftentimes, it can feel like you’re submerged under water just trying to hear and see things clearly, because our minds are always off in space worrying about something else. When you have an animal you’re forced to live in the moment, and not in your own head because animals require a certain level of attention and focus to make sure they’re being cared for properly. When you have an animal you’re forced to stay grounded.
2. You’re reminded that you’re capable of loving.
When you suffer from depression or anxiety you’re so worried about your own issues it’s easy to feel like you’ll never be able to be accepted or loved by someone. Even if you consciously understand this to be untrue, it’s difficult to keep that voice in your head from making you feel unworthy of other’s kindness and affection. However, animals don’t care if you feel like you’re the craziest person you’ve ever met! In fact, they’re going to love you no matter what you do! Which is why having an animal and being able to properly care for one boosts a persons confidence and reminds them that they’re a person who is worthy of all the love in the world.
3. They increase how often you get out and exercise.
Owning an animal requires a lot of love, care, and exercise. Even if you have a cat you know that they’re not down to just lay around ALL day and will eventually want to play with you. If you’re a dog owner, this is especially true owing to all the walks you’ll have to take your little friend on. Exercise releases endorphins in your brain no matter what you do—which can greatly help with anxiety and depression.
4. They add structure to your day.
Anyone who has ever owned an animal understands that much like babies—they need routines. You need to feed, walk, and take care of an animal in the same way every day, that way they get used to their routine thus making a happier pet. Seems pretty standard, right? What people don’t tell you is that the chaos of not having a routine can often contribute to how stressed someone is at any given time. Not having a schedule allows your every day activities to become bogged down with what you should do, and when. By getting a pet and being held accountable for their routine makes you form your own, which reduces stress.
5. Petting them provides sensory relief.
Scientific studies have proven that petting an animal provides sensory relief for our bodies which, in turn, helps relieve stress and depression. Much like a stress-ball provides a physical outlet for our internal pain, petting a cat or a dog can provide the same sort of sensation for our bodies. When we’re doing repetitive motions like stroking a cute animals furry coat, what we’re doing is allowing our body to focus on what it is physically feeling instead of emotionally dealing with.