It’s no secret that pets make the world go ’round — they’re our most loyal companions and most excitable friends. But these heart-happy benefits go one step further. Did you know that when it comes to addiction recovery, emotional support animals can make an enormous difference? They’ve been found to decrease stress and loneliness, boost physical health and provide stability in your life.
If you’re considering getting an emotional support animal, here are five ways it can make a difference in your recovery process.
1. Reducing Stress and Anxiety
Support animals are shown to ease anxiety and stress in their owners, reducing both heart rates and blood pressure levels. You’ll likely find yourself calmed and at ease as you play, pet and bond with your pet. Stress is a major trigger in relapse, so a support animal to ease your anxieties on a physiological level will help you stay strong during recovery.
2. Easing Loneliness
Addiction recovery can sometimes feel like a lonely road, as you may have left a former social group in order to pursue health and freedom. Your emotional support animal gives you a friendly, furry face to come home to at the end of the day — one that is always excited to see you, no matter how long your absence.
You’ll likely notice that having a pet also ups your level of social interaction, spurring conversations with strangers on walks or animal training classes. You will have a reason to get out of the house and interact with the world regularly, helping you stay healthy and active.
3. Getting in Touch With Your Emotions
Support animals are often very in touch with their owner’s emotions, sensing their mood and needs in an instinctive way. As you bond with your pet, you’ll likely find them heightening your awareness of your own moods and emotional responses. You’ll discover as much about yourself as you will about how to take care of the new animal in your life.
4. Strengthening Physical Health
Having a pet gives you a reason to get up and moving each and every day. As you walk and play with your emotional support animal, you’ll find yourself lowering your blood pressure and feeling the benefits of a flood of feel-good hormones. A natural and healthy oxytocin “high” is a great way to boost your mood and physical strength, allowing you to not only connect with your pet but also enjoy a stronger and healthier you.
5. Increasing Your Sense of Purpose
When you’re in addiction recovery, the idea of caring for someone else in addition to yourself might sound impossible. Emotional support animals, however, can provide structure, responsibility and an outward focus to your day. Your pet has daily needs, from playtime and walks to grooming and feeding. If you’re not feeling ready to handle the demands of an active pet such as a dog, you might find a low-maintenance emotional support animal to be a great fit.
Regardless of the animal you choose, each pet will need some level of care. You’ll have an added responsibility to avoid a relapse and stay sober. Your pet needs you.