There are many different kinds of self-care out there, but did you know that spending time with animals is one of them? According to science, hanging with a furry friend keeps your brain healthy and makes you happier. For many years, animals have been loyal and patient helpers to people with physical disabilities, but their capacity to heal us mentally is just as great. From depression to dementia, there are tons of reasons why having a pet and spending time with animals boosts your mental health.
Depression and anxiety aren’t uncommon – especially as we deal with the added difficulties that the pandemic has caused in our life. If having a pet sounds like too much responsibility for you or pets aren’t allowed where you live, here are some ways to connect with animals and experience that sense of comforting companionship.
Visit an animal sanctuary or volunteer at a shelter
There are dog, cat, and wild animal sanctuaries. Check out their visitation hours and play with some creatures. Please research venues before you visit and support sanctuaries where animal welfare is a top priority. Looking to give back? Volunteering at a shelter is a great way to interact and show your compassion.
Go to your local dog park
This is way more entertaining than “people watching.” Seeing tiny dogs and big dogs happily interact together at the park gives you the mood boost your brain is craving. You can even offer to pet-sit if you want some overnight cuddles.
Visit a dairy farm
Some local dairy farms have a petting zoo. While it’s common for little ones to get their pet on at these places, there’s no shame in a full-grown adult snuggling up to some goats and baby cows.
Help out with a friends’ animals
Offering to feed your friend’s cat, or take your relative’s dog out for a walk, can help you boost that serotonin and clear your mind.
If you do have a pet, here are several ways to reboot with them:
Watching them is a form of meditation
Just watching your animals hang out and do their thing is an effective way to calm your busy brain. If your buds aren’t fuzzy and four-legged, birds and fish can be equally fascinating to watch.
The best form of companionship (and door to new companions)
Sometimes, even the humans you love the most can’t make your mood better. There are some things that words can’t solve. Pet companionship fills the void and automatically puts us in a more positive state of mind. This sense of camaraderie can add years to your life and prevent mental illness. Pets also encourage you to connect with other pet lovers, online or in real life.
They help you get your exercise fix
Having a pet helps you get your exercise. With a dog, maybe your exercise comes from walks, hikes, or runs that the two of you take together. With a cat, maybe you get down on the living room carpet and play with their toys in a fun, interactive game. Either way, having a pet encourages you to get that heart rate up.
They encourage you to get out in nature more
Spending time in greenery, or just going out of your house and getting fresh air is a perk of having a pet. This rings especially true if you have dog (although some cat owners “walk” their feline on a leash). When you’re feeling down, it’s easy to wallow in your apartment for days on end. A pet helps you break that cycle.
Focus on the present
Most important, pets encourage us to live in the present and abide by the motto of “Carpe Diem.” Pets aren’t worried about the day before, or the next day. They encourage us to live in the present and practice mindfulness.