How Having A Pet Has Helped Ease My Anxiety
My dog has become such a huge part of my life and has helped so much with my mental health these past few years. On the anniversary of his adoption, I wanted to share how having a pet has helped ease my anxiety and has greatly improved my life. While I’m not recommending that everyone immediately go get a pet, hopefully my experience can shed some insight if you’re thinking about becoming a pet parent!
It’s hard to believe, but today marks three years since Steve and I adopted our spunky, loving, chihuahua-mix, Raddon! I haven’t shared much about Raddon on the blog yet, so I thought it would be fitting to share all the ways that having a pet has helped me emotionally and physically! I always grew up a cat person (my parents would never let me get a dog), but I became pretty allergic to cats as I got older. Steve also always had dogs growing up, and we agreed pretty early on after we moved in together that we eventually wanted to get a dog.
And then six months later…we got one! I was going through a pretty tough time emotionally at that point – I had just quit my teaching job and was going to be at home looking for jobs I could take before I started graduate school. I also had some personal issues going on that time as well that were very difficult for me emotionally…and while I certainly don’t recommend getting a pet just because you’re at a low point, it helped me through those tough times for sure.
We decided to adopt rather than buy for many reasons (something I would highly recommend…so many dogs need saving!) and we knew we wanted a smaller dog because we didn’t have a yard and we lived in an apartment. So, we went to some adoption fairs in our area and eventually adopted Raddon from an amazing organization called Dogs Without Borders, who rescue dogs not only in the US but from around the world.
I saw Raddon at one of their weekend adoption fairs we attended and was immediately drawn to him. He was one of the calmest dogs at the fair and no one was looking at him or playing with him…everyone was crowded around the six small puppies that had just come in (which was actually why we were there, too). But one look at Raddon and I was sold. Steve hadn’t even gotten there yet (he was meeting me there), but when he got there I said, “This is our dog!” and the rest is history.
Having Raddon and becoming a pet owner as an adult (‘cause lets be real…having a pet as a kid is a very different story, haha) taught me so many amazing lessons and helped me in so many unexpected ways. Below are a few ways having a pet has greatly improved my wellbeing.
Having a dog has…
1. Helped me be more present and play more
Nothing will get you out of your head and into the present moment more than cuddling or playing with your pet. Pets are so innocent and have so few worries…it’s really refreshing to put our to-do lists aside and step into their world to be present with them in whatever way they need. Some of my favorite moments of each day are snuggling with Raddon in the morning (he is a HUGE cuddler and I could not be more grateful for that) and playing with him each night when I get home from work. I’m instantly taken away from my worries and reminded of what’s truly important in life – love, fun, and play.
2. Made me feel less anxious (especially when I’m alone)
I used to have a really hard time sleeping alone at night without anyone else home and I would get really anxious even if I knew logically that I was completely safe. I was really anxious as a kid and afraid of the dark, and some of that has still unfortunately stayed with me as an adult, so if you still struggle with that but you feel like you shouldn’t or you’re too old to be that afraid…you’re not alone. I often have vivid and frightening nightmares and am unable to go back to sleep after I have them, but after getting Raddon, I feel so much less anxious at night by myself when Steve is traveling. Just knowing I’m not completely alone has helped ease my worries and made me feel much calmer.
3. Given me a greater sense of purpose
I remember when we first got Raddon it was overwhelming to think that we all of a sudden had this tremendous responsibility 24/7 to look after him and keep him alive. I had never before had to care for someone besides myself else in that way. But caring for an animal truly gives you a greater sense of purpose in that you know someone would miss you if you weren’t able to come home. Someone is waiting for you patiently at the door until you return. If you’re lonely or live on your own, getting an animal can really help you feel less alone. I know Raddon has done that for me many times.
4. Helped me get outside more
This was one of the main reasons I wanted a dog instead of a cat – to get outside more! We walk Raddon 2-3 times a day, so having a dog is a great way to make sure you’re getting outside and getting at least a few steps in each day. I also love taking Raddon on hikes and to the dog park – hiking with a dog is so much more fun than hiking alone! I love that having a pet helps me stay more active than I would be without him.
Raddon adds so much to my life and he has been such a blessing, even when he’s causing trouble! The best things in live always come with challenges, but in my opinion they’re more than worth it. Do you have a pet or are you considering getting one? I’d love to hear in the comments!