Do you live alone? Adopting a dog or cat is one way to keep mental health issues and loneliness at bay.
Especially in today’s climate, living alone presents stark challenges specifically in the areas of mental health. Working remotely is more common than ever, and limitations on interpersonal activities and community involvement still restrict opportunities for social interaction. For those that live alone, it’s important to take proactive steps to avoid mental health struggles. One possible strategy for combating the loneliness and isolation that can result from living alone is to adopt a dog or cat!
The mental health challenges of living alone
An important distinction exists between loneliness and social isolation. Loneliness refers to an emotional state of feeling disconnected from other people, while social isolation refers to physical separation from other people. While social isolation doesn’t necessarily cause negative emotional states like loneliness, prolonged social isolation – which can transpire if you live alone – can lead to loneliness. Loneliness is a distressing and difficult emotional state that can have significant effects on mental health and can escalate into experiences of depression and even suicidal ideation.
One of the most significant ways to combat loneliness is to engage in healthy relationships – specifically ones that include in-person interaction. This obviously takes more effort for those who live alone. While interacting with friends and family outside the home is one way of compensating for the social isolation created by living alone, adding a pet to a living space is another way of creating opportunities for embodied, relational connections.
How pets can help boost mental health
Animals can have a significant impact on the emotional well-being of those with whom they interact. “Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)” refers to the way animals are engaged to increase emotional well-being and mental health in a variety of applications. Therapy animals are often employed in counseling or mental health treatment to help those struggling with a variety of mental health difficulties.
Animals’ capacity for contributing to emotional and mental health make them a huge asset for those who live alone and may struggle to connect with others and develop strong relationships due to their living arrangements. Studies on the benefits of interacting with animals have shown that animal interaction and engagement can create numerous positive effects, including not only reductions in loneliness but improvements in the following areas:
- Improving blood pressure
- Lowering necessary levels of medication
- Reducing traumatic stress
- Combatting anxiety
- …and more!
Consider adopting a pet if you live alone. Sharing your life with a dog or cat will help combat feelings of loneliness and can make a world of difference in your overall mental health!
Abby Thompson has worked as a young adult education consultant for the past six years. Her passion is to teach future generations about diversity, equity, inclusion and the impact diversity will have on their lives.