Are there any psychological benefits to pet ownership?

Written By: Dwight Bain, LMHC
Loneliness is listed as one of the greatest problems facing people in this country because it decreases mood and robs motivation. 
Feeling disconnected can create an anxious mood, while isolation and social withdrawal can create a feeling of depression that steals energy to change.  Both of these problems can be solved through the power of connection.  Psychologically we all need to feel connected in secure and stable relationships to maintain a positive sense of identity and worth. 
Sadly many people don't have positive relationships with friends or family because of death, divorce or dysfunction, yet they still feel a positive connection inside.  What's their secret?  Simple, they have learned the power of connecting to pets in a relational way to avoid loneliness and depression.
Here's what you and I can do to understand how to connect with our pets while feeling better in the process. 
First, research your daily schedule and lifestyle, then list out which type of pet most closely fits your personality as well as budget.  Tropical fish are relaxing and don't have to be walked once a day.  Parrots can learn clever phrases but won't chew up your shoes.  Dogs can't say hello, but are always excited to see you and earning the affection of a cat's purr is one of the simple joys of life. 
Next, invest some time checking out the health benefits of pet ownership which may bring the dramatic improvement of reduced stress and renewed connection to a feeling of emotional wellness and peace.  Remember that different personalities attach through different types of pets, so do your research, visit a few pet stores, Internet websites or Web blogs to learn as much as possible to help you in your decision. 
Gathering strategic information on the breed you are considering will guide you through the process of understanding all the factors involved, which will help you avoid disappointment by finding the very best fit possible as you begin enriching your life with the psychological benefits of owning a pet. 
Here's the bottom line on pet ownership.  Every relationship adds value, but few are as easy as connecting to a new best friend who prevents loneliness while bringing a better quality of life.
(Additional note: could you tell that our home is full of life and laughter because of 7 pounds of energetic fur wrapped up into a Yorkie named, "Sugar"!)

Dwight Bain Bio:
Author, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. Corporate clients include: Toyota, State Farm, Du Pont, Bank of America & Disney. Organizational clients include the US Army, Florida Hospital & the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. Quoted in: Investors Business Daily, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution & Orlando Sentinel.

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