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What Pets Can Teach Us About Coping with Loneliness

What Pets Can Teach Us About Coping with Loneliness

Your pet is likely feeling the holiday season just as much as you are — maybe even more! Your

pet has different needs than you do during this time of year, and caring for them can help

you remember that the holidays aren’t all about what you don’t have; sometimes it’s

about appreciating what you do have — or in this case, who you do have! Paying attention to

your pet will help you learn how to cope with loneliness during the holidays and throughout the

rest of the year.

How can pets help with loneliness?

According to research conducted by a team of UK researchers, pet owners reported fewer

symptoms of depression than those who didn’t own pets. And they were also less likely to

feel lonely than people without pets. For example, one study showed that cancer patients

who owned pets coped better with illness and had improved immune system

functioning when compared to those without pets. There are many explanations for these

results, but in general, it can be said that both dogs and cats offer companionship.

When you live alone or are surrounded by busy friends and family during a time that

is supposed to bring us together, your pet can provide a sympathetic ear if you need it.

Are people with pets less lonely?

A 2008 study found that older people who lived alone and owned a pet were less lonely

than those who did not own pets. Specifically, dog owners felt significantly less loneliness

than non-dog owners, while cat owners and non-pet owners did not differ in their reported

loneliness.These results were replicated in a second study, in which elderly participants

(mean age= 73 years) rated how lonely they felt based on a single question: How often do

you feel very lonely? Among those who owned cats and dogs,dog owners (52% of respondents)

experienced significantly less loneliness than cat owners (34%) or non-owners (46%).

Again, these results held for individuals living alone.

Why Pet Owners are Happier

The New York Times reported that pet owners are happier than people without pets.

Research shows that dog owners and cat owners report being more active, better socialized,

less lonely, and less depressed than non-pet owners. One study even found that having a pet

can help you live longer! So don’t be a party pooper; spend your holidays cuddling up to furry

friends rather than people who might not even like you in five years. Get a cat or two (or four!),

or get a dog if you already have cats, and give yourself something else to love. Cats (and dogs)

will never leave you out of plans at the last minute because they have no plans in life themselves.

The Health Benefits of Caring for an Animal

A study done at Harvard Medical School shows that caring for an animal can reduce stress

and help a person cope with loneliness. Another study done by Johns Hopkins University

indicates that people who have pets often live longer and healthier lives than those who

don’t. Although it’s hard to prove why this happens, most people speculate that a pet provides

companionship and comfort to its owner in times of need. While your pet may not be able to

hold your hand or go out for a drink at a bar, they will always be there to listen when you

need someone—which, let’s face it, is pretty cool.

What Pets Can Teach Us About Coping with Loneliness

Companion animals: The best pets for depression

Unconditional love is provided by dogs and cats. On terrible days, these pals can assist you,

and on happy days, they can rejoice with you. If you're still depressed, your animal companion

may be precisely what you need to feel better. Make use of their simple ways of expressing

emotions, such as a doggie grin or a meow, to help you manage your own emotions. Take your

pet's expressions as an indication that they want something; perhaps they want out of their

cage to go outside, or perhaps they're hungry.

Take Action - Volunteer at a Shelter

If you’re feeling lonely, volunteering at a local animal shelter or pet store is a great way to help

animals in need—and could be one of your best defenses against loneliness. Studies show that

spending time volunteering with pets can lessen feelings of depression and loneliness while

enhancing self-esteem and well-being, Dr. Jennie Friedman said. The unconditional love we

receive from pets is truly healing to our emotional health. So if you’re trying to help animals in

your community, try taking an hour or two out of your day to spend some time at a shelter—you

may feel better both physically and emotionally!

Talk to a Professional

Pets are helpful companions and there’s no doubt that they provide comfort, but it can be tough

to pinpoint exactly how they affect us. Luckily, experts have studied just that. Pet owners tend

to show a stronger sense of self-worth, as they value their relationships with pets more than

others do. Furthermore, pet owners are less likely to become depressed than people without

pets – just having a pet in your life is enough to reduce your chances of depression by nearly

10 percent! Those statistics make it clear: The holidays can be tough for those who suffer from

loneliness, and pets can help you cope with those feelings.

Talk to Friends and Family

It’s a sad fact of life that we can get lonely no matter how close our relationships are. If you

feel isolated during the holidays, you’re not alone. More than a third of people admit to feeling

lonely at Christmastime, which is why pets can help us more than we realize. Pets may seem

like needy creatures, but they can actually help us learn important lessons about how to cope

better with loneliness in our social lives. Check out these four examples of animals and loneliness:

Dogs—Dogs are great pets because they keep both companies and provide emotional support

when you need it most.

Enjoy Nature - Go on a Walk

According to Time, one in six Americans feel lonely and an estimated 50 million Americans are

suffering from loneliness. When you’re dealing with a natural inclination towards solitude, it can

be hard to find a way to combat loneliness during holidays that often encourage socialization.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to combat loneliness during holidays – at least for a few

hours.Take your dog for a walk or go on one yourself! Pets can help you feel more connected

and in tune with nature; walking is one of many activities that can help us forget about our daily

worries and truly enjoy time spent outside. And even if you aren’t alone for long, at least you

know your pet will always be by your side!


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