With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, now is a better time than ever to take a look at ways for improving our mental wellbeing. Mental health topics that were previously taboo are now being addressed from better-informed, scientific angles that are providing much-needed relief to those in need. While there are many professional counseling, nutritional, and lifestyle tips that can help people struggling with mental illness, one great idea is to volunteer with animals. Whether it be enrolling in a veterinarian shadowing program, volunteering at a local shelter, or simply walking dogs for disabled neighbors, keep reading for 5 ways that volunteering with animals is good for your mental health.
Animals Help Reduce Work-Related Stress
Many people feel bogged down by their professional responsibilities. Deadlines, quotas, and sales closings are just a few of the myriad stressors that can leave professionals feeling at the end of their rope.
Fortunately, a smiling face and a wagging tale can do wonders for turning the day around. Whether you get fired or promoted, receive a raise or see a reduction in hours, a loyal animal will be consistent through it all. Interacting with animals reminds us that the simple things in life are truly the most important.
Animals Fill A Void For Those Experiencing Loneliness
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, isolation and loneliness has become an epidemic in this country.
As if the challenges of being single or an empty nester for the first time weren’t enough, the increasing prevalence of virtual interaction and social distancing that have stuck since the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the problem. There are even some reports that suggest that loneliness may be one of the most significant causes of death for coming generations.
Therefore, working with animals is a great way to help fill a need for interaction that exists within your life. Not only will being around pets themselves be enriching, but volunteering with animals is a great way to meet other animal lovers to help foster new friendships.
Animals Provide a Sense of Purpose
Animals have an amazing way of providing balance in our lives.
On the one hand, they do an extraordinary job of relieving stress for those who lead hectic lives.
On the other hand, they can provide a tremendous sense of purpose for those who are maybe wondering what comes next in life.
Many retirees face significant fear and anxiety as they face the question of what to do with their free time. The issue is so severe that the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 25% of Americans aged 65 and older are dealing with some sort of mental health issue.
But it’s not just seniors who may be feeling a bit lost.
Whether you are a recent college grad struggling to find their footing in the world, a working professional unexpectedly laid off, or someone who has recently lost a close family member, working with animals is a wonderful way to be reminded that you absolutely matter and play an important role in society.
Animals Keep You Moving
If you have tuned into any mass media recently, you have undoubtedly heard some advertisements, campaigns, or public service announcements for Mental Health Awareness Month (May).
One of the most common themes in these media spots is the importance of exercise in improving our mental health. The brain releases many endorphins during exercise that boost our mood and enhance our sense of well-being.
If you’re not really the type to don the gym shorts and headband, what better way to get moving than by volunteering with animals?
By ensuring that animals get their daily exercise needs, you’re keeping yourself active and getting a needed endorphin rush in the process. Not to mention that animals will get you outdoors, which in itself has its own strong mental health benefits.
Working With Animals Can Open the Door to New Career Opportunities
Finding a job is a major point of stress for most people.
And the worst part is that when they actually do get a job, most people end up being highly dissatisfied with their role.
If you’re an animal lover, volunteering with animals is a great way to get your foot in the door toward a career that you may find much more rewarding than sitting behind a computer all day.
For example, if you choose to shadow at a veterinary clinic, you get to see firsthand what makes a clinic function at a high level and gain invaluable experience picking the brains of licensed professionals. If you help at an animal rescue, you get experience in staffing and scheduling to ensure that there are hands on deck at all times to work with animals in need.
Volunteer With Animals Today and Enjoy the Mental Health Boost
Animals are one of the good things in a life that can sometimes feel like it is too much to bear. If you want further ideas on how to get involved with animals and boost your mental well-being in the process, scroll through the resources at Dawg Squad for inspiration!
Kathryn Goodwin is a compassionate freelance writer who generously volunteers her time and writing skills to support the El Paso Animal Shelter. With a passion for both writing and animal welfare, Kathryn combines her talents to raise awareness about the needs of shelter animals and promote adoption and responsible pet ownership. Her heartfelt dedication to the well-being of animals and her ability to use her writing to advocate for their welfare make her a powerful voice for animals in need.