Saturday, August 11, 2018

5 Ways Pets Can Be Healing for Those in Recovery

(C) Allen Pearson
We all know how much pure joy and happiness our pets bring us each and every day. Whether they are meeting us at the door after a long day at work with their tails wagging and a warm welcoming twinkle in their eyes or they are demonstrating silly playful acts that make us smile our pets are truly an important part of our daily lives. Did you know that pets are beneficial to us both physically and mentally? Here are five ways in which pets can offer healing to people in recovery—whether physical recovery or recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.

Physical Benefits
  • Helps reduce stress by releasing oxytocin (a relaxation hormone)
  • Blood pressure improves which improves heart health
  • Helps reduce overall pain associated with recovery
Mental Benefits 
  • Lifts spirits thus decreasing depression and the feeling of being alone
  • Encourages communication and socialization
(C) Allen Pearson
When treating someone that is, for example, recovering from knee replacement surgery many factors go into making sure they heal properly and timely. By focusing on the physical well-being as well as the mental health of the patient, therapists and doctors can be sure their patients will heal better than expected. Many times after such an invasive surgery, patients are left with lots of pain and self-doubt.

Questions such as, "Will I ever be able to walk again?" may surface as physical therapy combined with the physical pain may be too much to handle. Depression could also result from such doubt. This is where pet therapy could come into play. By introducing a furry friend to this patient, their anxiety and depression would be calmed. Also with the release of oxytocin, their pain would be more manageable which would, in turn, give them much more motivation to continue and push through their recovery therapy.

Pet therapy does not have to just heal those that have physical impediments. It can also do wonders for those that have perhaps gone through something very traumatic in their lives such as witnessing the death of a loved one or having been through situations of horrible neglect and abuse. These people do not respond to social situations very well and generally display reactions of high anxiety and stress. Sometimes they will completely close themselves off as their internal survival mechanisms kick in.

So how would our loving fur babies help in this sort of situation? Again, this has a lot to do with the release of endorphins that help to alleviate stress and anxiety. By introducing these patients to warm, loving animals, they will not only get the benefits of relaxation but they, in time, will also learn to trust these animals. Building trust with the therapy pets is just the start of a journey of learning to build trust with people and going on to build relationships, friendships and a more fulfilling life.

Another and possibly more obvious example of how pets can aid in the healing process of someone in desperate need would be a patient that has undergone a life-altering cardiac event. Not only is this stressful for the patient but is equally as stressful to their loved ones. Pet therapy in this sort of situation would be beneficial for the entire family. By healing the stress and anxiety of the loved ones, they will, in turn, be able to provide much-needed support to the recovering patient. The beloved pet will also be able to provide additional support by not only helping to keep the patient's blood pressure at an acceptable level bettering their cardiac condition, but they can help the patient ward off any depression and give them a new outlook on life.

In conclusion...

No matter how we look at it, pets are truly a blessing in so many ways. The mere fact that they give us a reason to smile and make us feel unconditionally loved is only topped by them giving us so many added health benefits. So snuggle your pets. Take them for a walk more often. Give them an extra minute of a scratch in their favorite spot. With everything they do for us, this is the least we can do for them.

About the Author:
Peter Lang is a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia. In recovery himself, he is dedicated to helping those who struggle from drug and alcohol addiction.

(C) Allen Pearson

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