By Dario Palombi
Are you feeling sad, lonely or even a little stressed lately? Do you feel isolated from the outside world because it seems as though no one understands what you're going through? If so, you may want to try out a new therapeutic treatment: Owning a pet.
It's no secret that some of us have voids in our lives that can't be filled by other people, at least not as often as we'd like. For many, our lifestyles may depend, whether we realize it or not, on a support system that helps balance out our physical, emotional and mental states. And believe it or not, the right pet can do this for you without asking for much in return -- just the basic necessities. Soon enough, you'll start to see the positive changes it can make in your life.
EVIDENCE OF PET HELP
The proof is out there. For years dogs have been used to provide alternative care to sick children and the elderly. At the very least, they have been shown to lift patients' spirits and speed up recovery to a certain degree.
But pets can have a huge impact on anyone's health, as one recent finding shows. Dr. Karen Allen, a former research scientist in medicine at the State University of New York, conducted a study with 48 male and female stockbrokers who were faced with high levels of stress daily. Those without pets "registered twice the stress response as those who had a pet in the room." There is something to be said, therefore, about the impact that an animal can have on your life.
WHO BENEFITS MOST?
Of course, this doesn't mean that you need to make a mad dash to the nearest pet store. One who is constantly moving from point A to point B, for example, may not find a pet too practical.
But someone who is home a lot, and is alone for the most part, may find that coming home to an animal friend is uplifting. This is especially true for those going through a tumultuous time (i.e. a breakup, long-term illness) whereby there is no one to provide comfort at home or no one who understands. Procuring a pet would be the best solution in this case because of its natural, albeit unintentional, ability to cheer people up.
Likewise, someone with a highly stressful job may need an extra hand in relieving some of the tension built up throughout the day.
THE PROS OF A PET
If you can relate to any of the aforementioned lifestyles and are still unsure if a doghouse or kitty litter is in your immediate future, check out five reasons why owning an animal may be beneficial for you:
1- Provides constant companionship
As long as their basic needs are met (food, water, etc...), a pet will provide round the clock love and affection without asking for much in return. It won't love you and then change its mind or ditch you at the last minute. It's there for you always and needs you.
2- Offers distraction
A pet can serve to keep your mind off of the constant strain in your life. Playing with your dog or cat, or even watching your fish swim for 20 minutes, can keep you from thinking about your work pileup, the clothes that need to be washed, or the bills that have yet to be paid. Everyone needs that window of opportunity to escape from the hassles of daily life, and a pet can help.
3- Gives you a sense of purpose
For those who feel as though they're walking numbly through life, nurturing an animal companion may help you feel like you're accomplishing something. After all, you are taking care of another living thing. There's a certain parent-like pride you feel in watching your pet grow strong and healthy. Not ready for kids just yet? This may be the answer.
4- Allows you to open up without worry
Maybe writing in a journal is not for you. You may want a living outlet where you can openly express yourself without fear of reprisal. A pet will not judge or disagree with you. It's only there to listen (even if it can't understand a word you're saying, at least you're getting things off your chest). No misunderstandings, no fuss, no having to wait until your turn to talk... what more could you ask for?
5- Gives you a reason to work out
Even if you feel as though your life is fulfilled, you may want to burn a few extra calories and find an excuse to get some fresh air. Needless to say, a dog enables you to walk and run considerably more, thus healing your mind and body at the same time.
Picking the Right One
Of course, there are other things to consider: Budget, location and free time. Sure, dogs are considered "man's best friend," but if you're living in a studio apartment, you may want to think small (and that's if you're even allowed pets).
If you have plenty of terrain and time to offer, then, by all means, get yourself a canine companion. Otherwise, you may want a more independent animal like a cat.
But if time and money are not on your side, you should opt for fish, turtles, birds, or hamsters. Although these animals may be more oblivious to your presence, they are pets nonetheless.
Be Absolutely Sure
Remember, owning a pet is a great way to get some alternative mental and emotional support, as it can fill the gaps in ways that people can't. But bear in mind that a pet is for life. You have to be sure that you really want or need one and are prepared to make a lifelong commitment. After all, if a pet can work wonders for you, doesn't it deserve a little respect in return?