As someone rightly said, 'Sometimes the best medicine is a dog who thinks their love can cure you'. During the Covid-19 pandemic, life as we know it has drastically changed and our daily routines were shattered. One of the most undeniable effects of the pandemic is the lack of social interaction as well. Social distancing and quarantine have caused stress, anxiety, panic and severely taxed our coping abilities.
Psychologists have found that having a pet can offer multiple mental health benefits ranging from reducing stress to having a cuddle buddy in these difficult times. Research has looked at how various pets like cats, dogs, birds, and even goldfishes have helped distract people from their issues and aided them in dealing with their emotions better. No matter how you do it, interacting with your pets and spending time with them every day will strengthen your bond and keep both of your happier and healthier. Here are a few ways your furry friend can help you cope better with the pandemic:
- Talking to your pet: Having conversations with your pet can prove to be extremely therapeutic. They are great listeners, not to mention the fact that they do not provide unnecessary criticisms or advice. Research has shown that pets can pick on your emotional cues and sense when you are distressed or troubled. Sometimes just vocalizing your thoughts and saying things out loud can help you rationalize and work through them better. You can pour out your hearts to them, knowing that when you're done, you will receive a friendly tail wag. Talking to your pet can also help improve your relationship skills and provide an enhanced feeling of social connectedness. Also, puppies are fantastic conversation starters; there is never a moment of awkward silence that isn't filled with a woof.
- Help combat loneliness: Pets have proven to be great companions. They provide their owners with a sense of security and someone they can share their daily routine with. When you have a pet, there is always some movement and event happening around the house that keeps you engaged. Human touch is extremely vital for emotional and psychological stability, and with the lockdown, that has been hard to come by. Pets have shown to make up for this lack of human interaction with their companionship.
- Snuggle with your buddy: 'Sometimes, a hug is all that you need to make you feel better. Due to this pandemic, social distancing has become a norm, but you don't have to distance yourself from your pet. Hugging, cuddling and snuggling with your pet is safe for you. Hugs from your pets feel amazing and can help release happy hormones as well. They also relieve stress, reduce sadness and uplift your mood. Remember, a snuggle a day is good for you and your pooch as well. Snuggle sessions are the best way to start and end a day. A 10-min cuddle can help you feel calm and relaxed; it fills you with a happy vibe.
- Interactions with pets lower stress hormones: During the pandemic, being stuck in one place can often cause stress and anxiety, plus attempting to maintain a work-life balance may also be a taxing factor. Playing and talking to your pets is not only a fun event but also healthy for you. Studies have shown that when you interact with your pets 'happiness hormones' like dopamine and serotonin are released. When you laugh at your pet's cute and goofy moments, it helps reduce stress and anxiety levels and calms you down. Interaction with a friendly animal can also help decrease the levels of the 'stress hormones' cortisol in our system. Stroking and petting animals, including rabbits, turtles, and dogs, have shown to reduce blood pressure levels in individuals as well.
- Look to them for a good laugh: We've always heard 'laughter is the best medicine', and during this pandemic, the laughs we've gotten are mostly from memes or stand-up videos. Our canine friends know precisely what to do to give you a good laugh. Pets are naturally funny without putting in any effort; it is just their adorable and quirky ways of being. The way they tumble around, chase around their own tail, slip off from their exercise wheel, or are fascinated and excited by the smallest things and sounds. You could hide their toys or chase them around as well. Such experiences can definitely add to a couple of chuckles and smiles, which is an excellent way of relieving stress.
- Walks are good for both of you: Whether in a stroller, on a leash, beside you, or on your shoulder, a pet can accompany you on walks. Getting some fresh air and moving your body around can prove to be a mood lifter for you. Walks also help reduce stress, increase mental energy and release happy hormones (endorphins). And who better as your walk buddy than your pet? They will definitely be more than excited to do so. Go for a stroll, walk, jog or run; this brief interaction with nature or the outside world can go a long way. Your furry friend also needs this exercise to stay healthy. There is no better motivator to go on a walk than your dog's big puppy eyes.
- Aid in developing healthy habits: Often, we have seen lifestyles going upside down with the onset of the pandemic, with people sleeping through the day and working at night. Taking care of your pet is something you need to do every day. This feeling of love and responsibility towards your pooch can help you build and maintain a healthy routine. Dog owners need to take their pet on a daily walk, jog, run or hike, which not only keeps the dog healthy but your exercise goal of the day is met too. Pets need to be fed on a regular schedule, and thus, for that, you will wake up and take care of them irrespective of your mood. Your pet, therefore, will give you a reason to push yourself out of bed and get things done. Pets also teach us the importance of self-care. You need to bathe them, trim their nails, groom them and cuddle them. This acts as a reminder, telling you that self-love is due on your part as well.
- Pets teach you to ‘live in the moment: With the lockdown and quarantine, we often find it challenging to maintain a positive outlook towards life, but it does become easier to do so with your furry buddy around. Pets do not worry about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow; they live in the moment. Pets help you be mindful about your present and live it to the fullest. It is very easy to preach about quotes like 'you only live once, but we need to remember this and push ourselves through in these tough times. Pets can help you forget about your worries and be playful and carefree. We all need that pause to get back and then deal with situations with a fresh perspective.
- Give us unconditional love: Sometimes, when we are low and not feeling the best about ourselves, we just need someone to love us no matter what. Pets do not care about how you did on a test. They do not bother about how athletic you are, nor do they think about if you have been productive. They are simply happy to see you. A dog will lick you and play with you no matter what. A cat will snuggle with you and spend time with you at any point of the day. This is the kind of unconditional love we all need and deserve, something that is so pure and non-judgemental. People feel more wanted and needed when they have a pet to care for.
- Share the joy: In these difficult times of the pandemic, everywhere from the news to social media is filled with news about rising cases, deaths, and fears. Sharing a video of your fluffy friend can definitely bring joy to your close ones. It is a moment of creating a memory for you, but you also share the smile with your loved ones. You could share pictures, video calls, or even share video clips on social media platforms and use this as a beautiful bonding opportunity to create connections with others. After all, funny and wholesome pet videos will always remain a classic!
Pets enhance responsible living, laughter and provide fun and entertainment, which improves mental well-being, decreases the chances of depression and anxiety and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Human-animal bond and pet-facilitated therapy have become terms of common usage now. And as Anne Frank rightly said, 'whoever is happy will make others happy too' and in these difficult times, who better than a scaled, fluffy, furry or feathery buddy to put a smile on your face.