Five ways the human-animal bond is improving lives in the pandemic

COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted regular life for people all around the world for over a year now, and the effects on our mental health are slowly becoming more evident. For pet parents, however, one relationship has definitely provided the kind of comfort and support that is needed during such unprecedented times: the bond they have with their pets. Our pets are companions that help us stay grounded and connected to the simple pleasures of the lives we lived before the pandemic. They make our existence better and filled with love in numerous ways; here are five that are helping us through the pandemic. 


Pets prevent social isolation

Indian families are usually large and tight-knit, and having to isolate away from our people due to lockdowns can be extremely difficult. Having a pet, however, can provide a sense of companionship and reduce the feeling of loneliness. According to a number of studies, petting, stroking, or even being near your pet can help one feel less lonely. Even after the lockdown ends, pets may be able to help their parents connect with others, make new friends more easily, and create the much needed circle of social and emotional support. 



Pets ease stress and anxiety

Pets are in a unique position to ease their parents’ worries and provide support, since they respond intuitively, especially in times of distress. Pets can help us feel like we’re talking to a friend who will not betray our confidence, hurt us, or offer criticism. This unconditional positive regard promotes emotional stability through the management of stress, regulation of negative feelings, and helping us cope with the difficulties of the pandemic. According to a survey conducted last year, over 50% of pet parents have said that their pet has helped reduce feelings of depression and anxiety during the pandemic.



Pets provide welcome distractions

The pandemic has led us to feel overwhelmed once in a while, but our pets help distract us from those feelings. Being creatures of routine, they help us build our own schedules rather than spending all day in bed, or over-engaging in less than positive news. Many pet parents report that their pets are helping them maintain structure within their daily lives by designing their own days around their pet’s schedule. This helps them cope with uncertainty, and find purpose and motivation. 



Pets help their parents stay active

Social distancing norms and lockdowns often hinder our fitness activities, but our pets still need physical activity. Pets ensure that their parents manage to get some exercise and fresh air everyday, which is essential for good health. Exercise also helps release endorphins, a type of neurotransmitter that helps us experience pleasure and relieve pain and stress. 


Pets reduce the likelihood of developing comorbid diseases

It is well known that individuals with certain conditions, including diabetes and heart disease, are at greater risk of complications from COVID-19. Pet parents can rest a little easier, however, since there are studies that indicate that being a pet parent is associated with lower rates of coronary heart disease, mostly due to the physical and mental health benefits that such a lifestyle provides. The same results have also been observed in studies with diabetes and hypertension. 


So while the past year may not have been the best, our pets are definitely helping us remain healthy, both mentally and physically, and allowing us to find the silver lining in the dark stormcloud that is the coronavirus pandemic.