How emotionally connecting with animals can help reduce anxiety
Emotionally connecting with animals
I’ve frequently mentioned that I have a lot of difficulty with understanding the emotions of fellow humans, and I’ve briefly mentioned before that it tends to be slightly different for me when it comes to those of animals. Self-reflecting and analysing myself has been an activity that I have liked to do for all of my life. This has taught me a great deal about what affects my anxiety, my personality traits, and the best kind of mindfulness activities that I can do to make me feel better during difficult moments. Due to that I have become very aware of how I emotionally connect to animals, yet the reason for why I do this is still very unclear to me.
Can pets help with mental health?
Despite that I have still learned enough to know how important having a pet is and how it is very essential for my daily mental health. Throughout the years I have owned dogs, cats, hermit crabs, cockatiels, turtles, chickens and lizards. There are many different kinds of animals with their own personalities and biological characteristics. However each and every animal I have come across in my life has the exact same innocence and instinctive understanding of the environment, of which the majority of us humans don’t have.
My brother Dylan’s cat (Ninja) is one example I can give of a human/animal bond that I have. Ninja is in general very lazy and likes to sleep under our parents bed during the day. But whenever I’m feeling my anxiety escalate at home, I’ll hear a small “meow” from nearby or claws scratching on my bedroom door. Ninja will then sit beside me and enjoy some mutual cuddles until I feel better, and he always knows when I feel better, because the moment he’ll go back to his “cave” under the bed is the moment I feel my anxiety lift away. But as soon as I feel upset again Ninja will quickly be at my side again. I refer to this as Ninja “giving his little contribution to keep peace in the household”. Also, when mum brings the weekly grocery shopping bags into the house, Ninja will “guard the den” by standing in the driveway protecting us and the food (from predators of a cat’s imagination) before it’s all safely inside the house.
How pets can improve your health
There are other pets we’ve had (or still have now) who understand and comfort me equally. A couple of months ago I had a meltdown and afterwards (no longer screaming) I was silently crying outside in our sitting area in the back garden. It was then that one of our chickens, Rose came up to me (abandoning the grain and vegetables she was eating out of her trough) and bent down so that I could pick her up for a cuddle. Then, just like Ninja does, she went back to her animal activities as soon as I felt better.
Something else that I’ve discovered about myself is that I feel extremely emotionally distressed whenever I hear about or see pictures/videos of animals being hurt, killed or abused. Despite not considering myself a very emotional person in general, even I will easily cry (literally) from a mere thought of such an innocent and kind life being hurt and/or scared. Even killing animals that many call pests (such as spiders, cockroaches, rats, ants, snakes etc.) is something that I can never do or cope with emotionally. Unfortunately I also find many documentaries about animals in nature upsetting, because there’s always unexpected footage of prey being hunted and killed.
Though to conclude this on a much happier note, I can look at it as a positive thing whenever I feel that I’m too cold, non empathetic and unemotional. Despite being unable to understand emotions very well, the fact that I can feel sympathy for animals shows that it’s not that I’m incapable of having emotions; and it also tells me that I’m not a mean and uncaring person (which worries me a lot). That gives me a warm feeling of relief.