Your Mental Health and the Power of Pets

Sandy Walker writes for Portsmouth’s Good Mental Health Cooperative, about how our pets benefit our mental health, while Carolyn Barber provides an update on a new project the Coop will be starting, following funding from the National Emergencies Trust.

Just the other week I got a dog, a little Chihuahua crossed with something, maybe Jack Russell. It’s been years since I had a dog, a decade or more and already I am remembering the delight of having a little bundle of unconditional love in your life. The special bond of mutual affection that defines a healthy friendship.

In 2016 I was part of a research team looking at the importance of pets in the management of mental health conditions (Brooks et al, 2016). We found that pets provided several roles, many of which are particularly pertinent now in the situation we all find ourselves in.

  • Unconditional acceptance – pets accept us as we are, warts and all. They don’t judge us for being emotional, odd, eccentric or unusual.
  • An intimate and secure relationship – pets need us to care for them and often we find that we need them too in order to express that loving side of us that might not have found expression with other people.
  • A sense of responsibility – as pets need us to care for them, in a similar way to children, this can add a sense of purpose to our lives
  • Social interaction – particularly with dogs they provide an excuse to talk to other people, at a distance now obviously. For some this can be the only source of contact they have with anyone else in a day and some great friendships have grown this way.
  • Exercise – again, particularly with dogs, they need walking every day so this means we have to go out too. We all know how important exercise is for our mental health!

At a time when social interaction is reduced and we can’t access the things we might usually do in order to fill our days, pets can provide the distraction we need to fill our lives and reduce any time we might find ourselves feeling lonely and isolated. So maybe we should have a clap for the pets day as well as the frontline workers clap on a Thursday!?

Stay safe and give your pet an extra big cuddle today if you have one 🙂

Update from the Good Mental Health Coop

Thanks to the National Emergencies Trust, the Good Mental Health Coop now has some funding to set up live workshops and events online during July and August.

We’ll be hosting live ChitChat Cafe sessions very soon to share ideas and introduce our planned workshops on journal writing, art, drumming, mindfulness, and wellbeing.

If you’d like to join in the ChitChat Cafe, click here and we’ll keep you updated.

Each week we’ll be sharing a range of strategies and resources to help you build mental and emotional resilience during the Covid-19 crisis.

This is just as important as our physical strength if we were planning to run a marathon! And just like our physical health, taking care of our mental health is about establishing good habits as part of our regular routine. 

We’ve been hard at work updating the Resources section of the Good Mental Health Coop website – these are resources you can use to build your mental and emotional resilience during these testing times. The Resources are divided under 4 themes – Meet, Relax, Learn, Create – please take some time to browse and check them out. 

Click here for Resources for Resilience

This article was originally published as a newsletter. Check out the Good Mental Health Coop website, where you can sign up to receive Carolyn’s weekly mental health updates by email, and find out more about the amazing work the Coop do. You can also follow the Coop on Twitter and Facebook, and you can read all of Carolyn’s articles for S&C here.

 Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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