There are so many reasons for owning an emotional support animal (ESA). Aside from helping with your mental health symptoms, more and more studies have shown that having a pet or an ESA can actually improve your overall health. Here are some ways emotional support animals can help their owners become healthier and happier!
1. Help you become more social
Having an emotional support animal will naturally lead you to become a more social person. You’ll have to take your ESA out to the vet, the groomers, on walks, etc., so you’ll instantly find yourself out in the world more. Interacting more with other people can lead to less isolation and loneliness (both key components of depression). Even if you’re just chatting with some people at the dog park, you’ll start to see your world open up just a little. Because your ESA can make you more social, you might also find that your self-esteem gets a boost. This is because your ESA is there solely to support and love you unconditionally. You’ll gain confidence in knowing that you can take care of them – with no strings or stress attached like in human relationships. Studies have shown that pet owners actually have higher self-esteem, more feelings of belonging, and a more meaningful existence than non-pet owners.
2. Get you to be more active
Emotional support animals are a great way to inspire you to be more active and to fit regular exercise into your routine. Whether you’re taking your ESA for daily walks or just playing with them at home, you’ll likely always be including at least some movement in your day. Research demonstrates that being more physically active can result in a lower body mass index and fewer visits to the doctor. Therefore, just owning an ESA and engaging in activity with them can help you improve your overall health.
3. Reduce stress and anxiety
Many people who own emotional support animals have high levels of stress and anxiety in their lives. Having an ESA can actually reduce the levels of stress-related hormones (like cortisol) in your body. You can start feeling less stressed within as little as five minutes of playing with your emotional support pet. There’s also research that shows that petting or playing with your animal can release oxytocin (or the “cuddle chemical”) into your body. More oxytocin in our systems makes us feel happier and more content.
4. Reduce depression
Studies have shown that people with pets tend to have a better overall well-being than non-owners. This is largely due to emotional support animals being able to provide social support to their owners. ESAs can also offer people with depression something else to focus on – whether this means tasks to help care for the ESA or just getting the chance to show affection. As mentioned above, an emotional support pet can also decrease isolation, which can be a factor in worsening someone’s depressive state.
5. Improve sleep patterns
An ESA can help you feel calmer and more secure at night, which can result in fewer symptoms of insomnia or fewer overall sleep difficulties. Emotional support animals can also allow you to create a nightly routine that might soothe any anxiety you have about falling asleep. Improving the quality of your sleep can help ease other symptoms of anxiety or depression, as well as helping you feel more well-rested and better able to take on the day (which can be a huge help if you’re struggling with a mental illness).
6. Lower your risk of disease
Because pets can decrease stress hormones and inflammation in your system, they offer a lowered risk of developing lots of serious conditions (such as cardiac problems, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that pets can help control your blood pressure, as well as decrease your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Higher levels of these can lead to cardiovascular events such as heart attacks or strokes.
7. Ease chronic pain
ESAs have even shown that they can be useful in lessening chronic pain. Because petting your emotional support animal can release oxytocin and endorphins, they can act as natural pain relievers. Several studies have shown that patients recovering from surgery used less pain medication when they also received pet therapy. In addition, caring for a pet gives you something else to focus on other than pain, which can serve as a helpful distraction.
8. Improve your relationships
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Science showed that adults with a deep bond to their pets felt more connected in their personal relationships and to their communities than individuals who did not have pets. ESAs can help people feel more loving and open, which can extend to creating better connections with the friends and family members in their life.
9. Help you live longer
Pet owners generally have longer lifespans than those without a furry friend at home. This is because of all of the factors mentioned already (more exercise, more sociability), which lead to fewer instances of disease.
So if you want to get a better chance of living a long, happy, and healthy life, having an emotional support pet can help get you there.