Life is full of change, and as creatures of habit we are not always the best at adjusting to the curves and bumps that pop up in the middle our journeys. Whether it is a new job, a move or just bad luck, any big change can throw us for a loop.
So what do we do to regain balance? Believe it or not, adopting a pet before or after a major life transition can help us cope better - here are six ways that caring for a pet can help us survive life's transitions.
NEW JOB? One of the hardest parts about starting a job is feeling confident in a new environment. Let's face it, it's hard to feel on top of your game when you don't know where the restroom is or how to get your coffee. Caring for a pet during this time can help you feel competent on every level. An animal's ability to provide instant gratification for simply walking in the door is just what you need when your days are filled with "learning the ropes" at a new job. Pets are easily impressed and they will usually show it with plenty of affection. That sense of accomplishment will follow you to work.
NEW HOME? Anything new can be scary and uncomfortable, especially a change of habitation. Humans rely on routine and familiarity to make us feel safe and comfortable. So a key to feeling at home in a new place is to imprint your surroundings. Daily walks with your dog following the same route will have you feeling more and more at ease in your neighborhood. Every time you recognize a building or a sign, it sends messages to your brain that this is a familiar place. The same is true as you settle into your new space; having a pet to feed and care for on a daily basis creates a recognizable pattern to your life that allows your mind to relax and connect your home to feelings of love and comfort.
MISSING FRIENDS? Healthy social connections have been linked to long, healthy lives. Maybe you are living in a new city or haven't had time to make or keep friends. Whatever the reason, a pet can help you build or rebuild your circle of friends. Pets are Mother Nature's natural "icebreakers." While the obvious ones are dogs with their never-met-a-stranger attitudes, science shows that other pets, such as cats, rabbits and snakes, can also foster connections. Talking about your pet with other pet parents creates shared positive emotional experiences that can lead to friendships.
FEELING DOWN? People have a tough time dealing with change because change by definition is a shift from the familiar. We can sometimes wallow in what is gone or different, but pets usually don't. They tend to live in the here and now. Pets can help us live in the moment and keep us from holding onto the past. As many pet parents would agree, they can also make us feel better just by looking at us. Studies have found that when a human and a pet make eye contact the brain releases oxytocin, the same chemical that creates those warm, trusting feelings between mother and child.
STRESSED OUT? There is a reason that animal therapy is beneficial for people with post-traumatic stress. Touch and movement are two healthy ways to quickly manage feelings of panic and worry. Petting an animal or walking with a pet can help you feel calm and worry-free almost immediately. Whether it's a dog that helps you run out your stress or an affectionate bunny that follows you from room to room, the interactive nature of a pet's love can create a soothing atmosphere.
NEED A CONFIDENCE BOOST? It doesn't matter what put a dent in your confidence, we all have times where we need a little pick-me-up in the self-esteem department. When it comes to filling our confidence tank, pets are genetically designed for it. The inability of a pet to be verbally critical or judgmental means your turtle or cat or fish has great potential to lift you up when you['re down. Pets are satisfied with the simplest acts of attention and affection. Being able to please your pet by the little things you do generates feelings of accomplishment, and that builds confidence.
It is really about adopting a pet that matches your personality - and once you find the right animal(s) to create a bond with, it will last a lifetime.