The Unconditional Love of Animals
By Contributing Author, Kate Harveston
Animals are angels with paws and fur. If you talk to depressed patients, many will describe how the love of a pet kept them going on their darkest days. People with mental health issues often find the best therapists bark or meow.
Your furry friends can help you heal holistically. They provide nonjudgmental companionship and help with activities of daily living. Above all, the offer unconditional love.
Animals Don’t Judge
Some days, you don’t want to leave the house. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, your Schnauzer doesn’t care what the scale says. He only wants to sit on your lap. Or maybe you need to indulge in an ugly-cry. Your Siamese cat doesn’t mind your puffy eyes or leaky nose.
Research indicates some animals like dogs understand human speech and gestures. But because they lack the social mores humans have, they don’t waste time on outward appearances. They sense the mood of their two-legged parent and they take action to help without passing judgment.
Animals Offer Immediate Feedback
Animals can sense your feelings and they respond to your cues accordingly without hesitation. This can help you identify your moods and the behaviors stemming from them. If you’re angry, your collie may steer clear of you. When you pause to reflect on why, you realize you’ve been stomping around and cursing under your breath.
Labeling your emotions and the resulting behaviors helps you regain control over your actions. This helps you break the cycle of guilt stemming from poor decision-making — once you’re aware of how screaming impacts others, you make an effort to lower your voice and communicate more appropriately.
Animals Instill Courage
Some battered spouses hesitate to leave because they’re afraid of living alone. However, a canine companion can help these individuals feel secure in their first solo apartment.
People with social anxiety disorder (SAD) may fear to attend the office holiday party. Bringing a therapy pet can help soothe their jitters.
Animals Help Us Establish Boundaries
If you’re recovering from abuse, you may find it difficult to set boundaries. Verbal and physical violence pushes the envelope by its very nature — the abuser crosses your line so often, you lose sight of where you drew it.
Animals help you re-establish what’s okay and what’s not. You might struggle to say, “That’s not okay with me.” But when your pets’ welfare is on the line, you might speak up.
Animals Assist the Physically Ill
If you suffer from epilepsy or another neurological disorder, you may need medicine at times — but your condition could put it out of reach. A trained assistive animal can retrieve it and bring it to your fingertips. Seeing-eye dogs become the vision for their owners.
Animals benefit their humans’ physical health in many ways. Recent research reveals that heart attack patients who adopted a dog live longer than those who did not. Playing with your pet provides exercise benefits for both of you.
Animals Offer Unconditional Love
Many people who suffer from mental health conditions feel alone. They think no one truly understands them, and this increases their feelings of being unlovable. But four-legged creatures offer unconditional affection.
If you’ve ever come home dragging at the end of a long day only to smile when your pet greets you at the door, you understand the power of this acceptance. Suddenly, even the worst day grows brighter when you’re covered in puppy or kitty kisses.
Animals Give Us Something to Live For
Suicidal thoughts often occur when you feel alone or isolated — the pressures of life exceed your coping ability. Your negative feelings surpass your capability to express them in words. But knowing another living creature depends on you for care can help you hold on when you want to let go.
Animals remind us we touch other lives by our very existence. They connect us with a cause greater than ourselves — and this can become a life preserver on our darkest days.
Whether your injury is physical or emotional — or both — your ultimate therapist might have four legs, not two. Animals deserve love and respect for all the ways they benefit their humans!