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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

More by this author

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 July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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