It's not a new thing that people feel better with animals. For years, they have been our companions and many times our best friends. Recently, they are being used as therapy animals. How do they help us though?
These are animals (usually dogs) who are there to provide comfort to people. These animals visit people in hospitals, elderly homes and now schools. Therapy animals can help bring about a sense of calm to people and offer emotional stability. Many people feel better around animals and this type of therapy allows for dedicated time with animals who can support those who are going through difficulties. The ideal situation is that a person leaves the session with the therapy animal both calm and happy.
How does it help anxiety?
Anxiety is caused by fear of something, and with therapy animals, people often feel safe. The feeling provided by animals can help eliminate the worries and focus your attention on something nice and happy.
Animals can also help by giving us an incentive to be physically active, such as walking a dog or riding a horse. Doing exercise tends to decrease anxiety as it gets rid of the adrenaline.
Which animals can ease anxiety?
Any animal can help with anxiety, but usually ones who are in-tune with human emotions are more effective. Dogs tend to be used as therapy animals as they are the most easily trained. Dogs are also able to provide a high level of comfort to people who are distressed. However, just as with people, animals are all unique and some do not provide emotional stability. They can still be a good companion and help in other ways. For example, having a pet can keep a routine that can help people with anxiety, as there is consistency and responsibility in their life.
What if I can't have a pet?
Not all of us are fortunate enough to have pets or to be part of an animal-assisted therapy programme. There are other ways we can interact with animals as listed below:
- Volunteering at a rescue shelter
- Volunteer dog walking
- Visiting a friend with a pet
- Visiting a farm park
- Going to a petting zoo
- Going horse-riding
There are a number of ways you can interact with animals and most of them are free. However, it depends on what you are hoping to achieve and what would offer you the best support. For example, if you struggle with emotional anxiety, it may be better to work at a rescue shelter and bond with the animals that need time rather than going horse-riding.
Animals are genuine and we can sense that. They hold no expectations and just enjoy being with us. The are creatures of the present, not thinking of the past or future, which is something people with anxiety have tendencies to do.