Pets and our mental wellness
In fact, pets check off a lot of really important boxes in this alcohol-free life: neurochemical boosts, routine, outdoor exercise, nervous system regulation, companionship, and so much more.
When we spend time with animals, especially a pet we love, there are notable increases in dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain—pets give us a mega boost of dopamine, the same feeling we seek through alcohol. They also soothe our nervous system and lower our anxiety levels.
A pet increases the likelihood that we step outside and get some fresh air, and dogs especially require walks and runs to manage their energy. Exercise and fresh air are some of the most powerful antidotes to mental unwellness. What’s more, pets need to be fed, walked, and napped on a pretty regular schedule, pushing us to implement the same kinds of routine into our own life. (Bonus points if you have a pet who appreciates the value of unwinding on the couch at the end of the day.)
We’ve already explored the importance of connection with others in relation to mental health, and pets are no exception; in many ways, we can experience a bond with a beloved pet that rivals many human connections we have. We feel less lonely with a pet around, we receive physical touch (again, with the exception of my house goblin), and here at Reframe, we wouldn’t think twice if you told us you talk outloud to your pet here and there. Connection is integral to changing out relationships with alcohol, specifically, and our mental wellness more broadly.
If you’ve got a pet, give them a little “thank you” head scratch today. They’re making your life just a little bit better, a little bit happier, every day. (Unless they’re doing the puking thing.)
*This article not sponsored by Pets R Us
McNicholas, J., Gilbey, A., Rennie, A., Ahmedzai, S., Dono, J. A., & Ormerod, E. (2005). Pet ownership and human health: A brief review of evidence and issues. British Medical Journal, 331(7527), 1252–1254.