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Published on June 12, 2020

Benefits of Having a Pet: Why Keeping Pets Gives You Positive Energy

Benefits of Having a Pet: Why Keeping Pets Gives You Positive Energy

Pets are hard work. Taking care of an animal is a financial investment, a time commitment, and sometimes a source of frustration. However, any pet owner can attest that their pet is worth all of the effort.

This is because pets, by nature, provide us with an influx of positive energy[1] that we can’t find anywhere else. Specifically, there are four important ways that pets provide positive energy that all pet owners should be thankful for. 

1. They Support Your Mental Health

No matter what you’re going through, a pet will be by your side to help you through it. With the spread of COVID-19, the emotional support of our pets is more important than ever. There is increased fear, anxiety, and depression as we all face the unknown, experience loneliness from social distancing, and watch the confirmed cases and deaths rise. Our pets can provide real, critical support in the face of all this turmoil.

Some specific ways that pets help your mental health include:

Companionship

There are many times in your life where you will feel alone. Maybe you’re social distancing, you just moved to a new city, you’re going through a break-up, or you recently lost a family member. A pet will be there for you and can provide a stable relationship even when other relationships are unstable.

A study of 148 college women proved this when it found that those who owned pets had lower loneliness scores on the UCLA Loneliness Scale[2]

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Stress Reduction

Life gets hard. Homework can pile up at school, projects can create tension at work, or deadlines can loom over your head. When these things happen, it’s nice to have a pet to come home to.

Pets are carefree, and petting, walking, or playing with them can take a load off after a long, not-so-carefree day. 

Having Something to Care for

Pets need constant attention. For instance, dogs always need to be walked, fed, and played with. Even smaller pets like a gecko need constant care: they need food, water, tank cleanings, tank temperature checks, and great care when handling.[3] That’s a lot to attend to!

Having someone to care for helps your mental state by giving you a sense of responsibility over another life and by making you feel needed and important. Truly, pets rely on us for everything, and that can give your life an added sense of meaning and purpose. 

They’re Cute!

Having an adorable little friend to come home to would put a smile on anyone’s face. Whether you have a dog with floppy ears and a big smile, or a gecko with big bright eyes and tiny little toes, having such a cute creature to call your own brings joy and is a source of pride. 

ESAs (Emotional Support Animals) are proof of the mental support that pets can provide. ESAs are helpful for people with more serious mental health conditions like panic disorders, major depression, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder[4]. Dogs, cats, birds, and even pigs can be ESAs and have helped support people with these conditions in ways that other humans cannot express. 

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2. They Support Your Physical Health

In addition to supporting our mental health, pets also provide positive energy by supporting our physical health. According to the National Center for Health Research, here are some of the ways dogs improve physical health[5].

Exercise and Fitness

Exercise and fitness come to mind first when we think about physical health. This benefit is seen most in dog owners, since dogs are high-energy. They frequently need to go on walks or runs, and if your dog is walking, then so are you.

Routine exercise can be hard for non-dog owners to commit to. However, as soon as you adopt a dog, you have another life who is depending on you to establish and maintain that routine. 

Allergy Immunity

Believe it or not, research suggests that kids who grow up around animals are more likely to develop an immunity to bacteria and pet allergens. This is especially true for kids who grow up on farms with animals like dogs, cats, cows, horses, and chickens. 

Reduced Cardiovascular Risk and Lower Blood Pressure

Pet owners have less cardiovascular problems and lower blood pressure. This could be a result of more exercise, higher emotional support in the face of stress, or a combination of both.

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A recent study by Washington State University[6] found that students who were able to pet an animal for just ten minutes significantly reduced the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Imagine how much you could reduce stress if you had an animal nearby all the time! 

Less Medical Care

Studies have found that those who own pets, specifically dogs, seek general medical care less frequently than those who are non-pet owners. This makes sense considering the mental and physical benefits of owning pets. In a 1992 study, participants reported less general health complaints and a score improvement on the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-30)[7].

Easing Pain

People who experience chronic pain, such as migraines or arthritis, have reported that owning a pet helps them deal with that pain. The emotional support and lower stress that pets provide is a possible explanation for this. A less active, quiet animal may also be more comforting for those dealing with chronic pain. 

The physical benefits that pets provide have an added bonus: when you feel good on the outside, you tend to feel good on the inside, too! So, the physical benefits that pets provide can double as benefits to your mood and mental health. 

3. They Provide Social Support

Pets provide social support by being our best friends. A lot of people feel that they can relate to their pets, and even have similar personalities. For instance, more active people may adopt energetic dogs, and the bond between them is often quite strong. 

Pets also provide social support by helping you meet new friends. For instance, talking about your pet can be a great icebreaker when you’re meeting new neighbors, classmates, or coworkers. In my own experience, people love hearing about your pets and seeing pictures, too! If the person you’re sharing with also has a pet, you automatically have something in common that can help foster a new friendship. 

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Dogs provide an added social support because of their active nature. You can meet new people or strike up a conversation with your neighbors just by taking your dog on walks or bringing them to the dog park.

Once you’ve met new friends, you can get to know them better by having doggy play dates or by sharing advice about training, illnesses, or behavioral problems. If you’re a cat owner, don’t worry; some cats also like having play dates with new friends, and fellow cat owners will also be a great source of advice and support in caring for your own cat. 

Having uncommon, exotic pets has social advantages, too. If you don’t know many people who have the same type of lizard or bird that you do, for example, this gives you a unique connection to others who do have that kind of pet. Even if you don’t know anyone nearby, there are forums and online groups for people who own specific pets, and these can be great sources of both information and personal connection. They may be long distance, but the connections can be just as real, and just as positive!

4. They Offer Unconditional Love

If you have a pet, you know what true love is. They care about you no matter who you are or what you’ve done, and you will always matter to them. Even if you feel unstable in your human relationships, you will never have to question the security of your relationship with your pet.

Even if you have a quieter pet like a gecko or mouse, you can be certain that they love you just as much as a bouncy dog or cuddly cat does. They may show it in different ways, but that doesn’t make it any less real. 

Pets are also an example of how to love better. If we showed the same empathy and compassion to everyone that our pets show us, then the world would be a much happier place. Not only that, but the world would also be a whole lot better if we loved everyone to the same degree that our pets love us. 

Final Thoughts

Yes, pets can be difficult and take a lot of hard work, but that’s part of what makes our relationships with our pets so rewarding. The hard work we put in shows up in a healthy physical, mental, and social state, and creates a loving emotional bond to our pets. The positive energy that pets provide us with speaks for itself, and it’s not something that we should take for granted. 

More on the Benefits of Having a Pet

Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

Reference

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Johnathan David

Johnathan David is a wildlife biologist and has decades worth of experience in herpetoculture. He is also the Editor in Chief at Everything Reptiles.

Benefits of Having a Pet: Why Keeping Pets Gives You Positive Energy

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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