In this day and age, taking care of our mental health is more important than ever. Researchers and doctors agree on the importance of self-care to relieve stress and boost our moods.
Scientists have also studied the way different therapeutic techniques work on people with mental illnesses.
One such technique uses emotional support animals, or ESAs, to help people heal and cope.
If you deal with anxiety and depression, you’re able to receive a letter from your therapist and go through ESA registration to officially qualify your pet as a support animal.
But what are the mental health benefits of an emotional support animal? Here are four they can offer you.
1) Alleviate Fear of Planes
Those with a fear of flying may find that emotional support animals are the solution to their problems. Instead of focusing on fear while they’re in the air, folks can bring their attention to their ESA instead.
Redirecting thoughts in this way will create positive associations with flying over negative ones.
There are many regulations for transporting animals on planes, but ESAs are the exception to the rule.
With a proper letter from a therapist, you should be able to take your ESA on any flight with no hassle. Airlines are legally obliged to comply with these regulations and allow your animal to board with you.
2) Supplement Other Treatments
Emotional support animals act as an appropriate supplement to many mental health treatments.
When used in conjunction with medication, therapy, or other cognitive behavioral treatment, it helps to facilitate a positive environment that encourages growth.
Incorporating your ESA into your routine helps you maintain agency and comfort in your treatment plans as well. Mindfulness techniques are popular with pet owners, as their pet helps the owner ground themselves in reality.
3) Give Love Unconditionally
Some people living with a mental illness may find it difficult to connect with others. Emotional support animals interact with people, no matter who they are or what they’re going through.
They love humans unconditionally, and humans are able to love them unconditionally in return.
This stable, reciprocal relationship can help people with mental illnesses transition to the real world. When a person feels accompanied and loved, they can feel more confident about who they are and how they interact with others.
A meaningful ESA relationship can develop into meaningful human relationships in the future.
4) Balance Your Emotions
If you feel sad, anxious, or angry, it’s best to have someone else remain calm to help you. Luckily, a pet which is well taken care of will remain stable and calm in their emotions.
In this way, they help humans balance their own emotions against their animal’s emotions in order to balance them.
Petting or providing your animal with treats will give you instant affection. Even watching them chew on a toy or lounge around the house can provide a calming effect for many owners.
Emotional support animals provide the perfect distraction to remove yourself from an upsetting situation.
In addition, it’s easy to feel safer when an ESA is around. An animal’s carefree attitude help quell people with paranoia, who often believe their safety or livelihood is in danger.
5) Help with Socialization
Those with social anxiety may experience difficulty being in crowds. They may even experience discomfort around their own friends and family. Thus, it is easy for them to detach themselves from the outside world.
Emotional support animals allow the socially anxious to practice communicating. They also help humans acclimate to being around others.
Pets even serve as a discussion topic for those who have difficulty starting conversation! Many people who have pets love talking about them.
In this way, emotional support animals provide a great avenue for discussion. Everyone can feel included when they share cute animal pictures and stories.
6) Reduce ADHD Symptoms
Depression and anxiety aren’t the only disorders ESAs can help treat. They can also provide benefits for children and adults with ADHD.
This is because having a pet can require an individual to keep a consistent schedule and learn to plan ahead. Many people with ADHD struggle with these issues on a daily basis.
Emotional support animals also distract individuals with ADHD from any triggers which exacerbate their symptoms. The consistency of a pet in someone’s life helps get them into a routine, as the simple act of seeing their ESA will remind them of their daily tasks.
Their ESA will even reward a person with affection for remembering their chores, reinforcing positive behaviour and decreasing the prevalence of ADHD symptoms.
7) Promote Empathy
Emotional support animals work best when the animal and their human have a loving relationship with mutual trust.
Not only do you receive emotional benefits from your ESA, they receive emotional benefits from you. In this way, it’s easier to see from your ESA’s point of view and introduce empathy into your life.
This empathy then extends from the ESA to other people in someone’s life. The easier it becomes to understand and relate to a pet’s emotions, the easier it is to transfer that empathy to humans.
Feelings of distrust and anxiety slip away, and ESAs replace them with feelings of compassion and understanding.
Awareness around mental health grows day by day. With this, we can observe the benefits that things like ESAs have on people living with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and many other disorders.
This list contains only four out of the many positive outcomes having an ESA can foster.
Keep in mind that your emotional support animal doesn’t have to be a dog, unlike service animals.
You can receive an ESA letter for any domesticated animals, including but not limited to dogs, cats, mice, rabbits, and birds. If you have a well-behaved pet who provides you with love and comfort in crises, you can register them as an ESA today.