April is the ASPCA’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, a campaign created to raise awareness of the difference people can make in animals’ lives. Pets, too, can have a significant impact on human lives, and Brookhaven Retreat recognizes the benefits of pet ownership for women recovering from mental health issues.
Pets encourage women to be active by providing a reason to go outside, whether to jog, walk or simply toss a ball. The CDC reports that physical activity reduces risk of depression, sleep loss and physical illness, all factors that can lead to mental health issues. It recommends 30 to 60 minutes of varied activity three to five times a week, something that is easily attainable while caring for a pet.
Caring for an animal adds positive focus to a woman’s life. Pets require a great deal of responsibility to feed, bathe, exercise and keep healthy, which reminds women who may have forgotten how able they are. Caring for a companion animal inspires women to care for themselves; women create a routine around their pets, which creates a mindfulness of healthy habits that encourages maintenance of medication, meal time and self-care schedules.
Women with animals rarely feel the same loneliness and isolation that they did before owning a pet, as animals offer constant companionship and a comforting presence that has been shown to lower heart rate, stress levels, and risk of depression and anxiety. Additionally, animals help women avoid isolation; a recent study reported that pet owners tend to experience greater self-esteem and extraversion. Pet owners were also found to experience higher levels of happiness and feelings of belonging.
Pets can be an integral part of creating a life worth living, and Brookhaven Retreat’s life realignment program helps women carefully consider the responsibilities and benefits of having animals in their lives. The habits women maintain while caring for a pet support mental health through the establishment of healthy activities and set schedules. By caring for a treasured pet, woman may continue their journeys of wellness with the unconditional love and emotional support of a cherished friend.