It’s no secret that pets bring a lot of joy into our lives. They feel more like a member of the family than a pet. Moreover, the unending admiration our pets have for us, even when are at our worst, is almost too pure and amazing for this world.
During winter, with days getting shorter, darker, and colder, our pets can be a huge relief — especially if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Pets are often the needed excuse to keep going when times get tough and it’s hard to convince ourselves to get out of bed or out of the house.
Of course, the list goes on and on when it comes to how our pets not only bring happiness into our lives but also provide crucial motivation and companionship. With that being said, here are some ways your furry companions can help you make it through the winter:
The motivation we need
Pet ownership, from dogs to birds to hamsters, is a big responsibility — no surprise there. However, that responsibility is exactly what a lot of people dealing with mental health issues (particularly in winter) need. Considering our mental health is an important facet in our overall health, pets are a great option for helping you through the tough months of winter. As University of Southern California explains, “Depression is linked with a higher risk for anxiety and many other mental health issues … These mental illnesses have a negative impact on the lifespan and productivity of the average person.” Of course, this isn’t breaking news to any of those who have been dealing with depression for years.
With that being said, that’s what makes spending time with our pets so invaluable. Studies show that regular exercise can help with SAD and depression which means taking your dog for their daily walk is the perfect excuse to get outside, stretch those muscles, and get some much-needed fresh air. Same can be said about playing with your cat. Whether you do some yoga alongside your flexible feline or play “keep away” with them, you’re still giving your body and brain some much-needed exercise.
Moreover, despite innovative technology such as AI now entering the healthcare fields, it still greatly benefits those dealing with mental conditions to have the connection that animals provide. Of course it’s great that we can track our fitness and diet, which can help you pinpoint triggers and generally feel better, but our pets end up being more than just an exercise companion. They are a good motivation to take care of yourself as they’d surely be heartbroken and crushed if anything happened to their beloved owner. We want the best for our pets, and so as we work to also take care of our own needs, we might be more motivated to make better choices to ensure we get all the time we can with them.
Through thick and thin
There is something to be said about a pet’s view on life that can be quite comforting — their unending love and admiration for you, their excited spirit as they bound through the snow, and the happiness they have over simple things like a treat, toy, and full food dish. They also find happiness just being near their owners, and you can’t help but reflect that same kind of love and joy. While pets are obviously beneficial during any season, for everyone of all ages, seniors especially benefit from their furry companions during the colder months. As some experts explain, pets can:
- Help lower blood pressure
- Contribute to improved cardiovascular health
- Reduce cholesterol
- Increase brain levels of the feel-good neurochemicals serotonin and dopamine
As we discussed already, winter can have a serious effect on our mood and ability to get crucial exercise. The same can obviously be said for seniors, but there are also physical health risks seniors face in winter. Falling outside during winter is obviously very dangerous, and there have even been instances of dogs saving their elderly owners from freezing to death after falling. Furthermore, pets tend to provide a lot of warmth at night and help seniors feel safer if they live alone.
A pet’s loyalty is pretty much endless, which means it’s worth taking the time to find a living facility that allows pets (when that time eventually comes). Whether you’re considering one for a parent, grandparent, or a friend, it’s important to keep in mind the pets we leave behind when we suddenly need to move. It’s a special kind of hurt to be separated from a pet, and seniors definitely deserve to live out their days with their beloved furry friends by their side. It might be a pain, but considering all the health benefits, it’s definitely worth it.
Winter, whether we like it or not, arrives each year to serve us up a nice, cold, icy plate of longer nights and chilly mornings. Given the lack of sunlight and the biting cold keeping us indoors, it’s no wonder our mental health can get stuck in a rut and depression sinks in. Luckily, we have our beloved pets to help us through even the roughest of winters. Even if you aren’t a pet owner quite yet, consider adopting from your local shelter or visiting a local pet store for smaller pets this winter if you feel ready to take on the responsibility and gain a new best friend.