How Pets Can Significantly Improve Your Mental Health

how pets can improve our mental health

We all know how lockdown has affected people’s mental health this year and pets may have played a key role in our wellbeing. Pets could indeed be lifesavers through a period of social loneliness, but not only then. In so many ways, they can help us live mentally healthier lives! The healing power of the human-animal bond is real.

My story

I was only 22 and still a student when I adopted Miko (the tabby cat in the picture below). I was in the middle of a crisis in my life: I was just back from Australia (I lived 6 months in Brisbane), feeling nostalgic about my experience over there and started to question some of my life choices: Was I studying at the right school? What exactly did I want to do with my life? Where did I see myself in the upcoming years? I didn’t have the answer and I felt lost. Suddenly, the opportunity presented itself to adopt a cat, a friend of a friend didn’t know what to do with their new litter of kittens. We had cats in my family when I was younger so I felt educated enough on the matter, I didn’t hesitate and decided to adopt one of them.

miko and luna in their cat tree

It gave me stability

Another living being was now depending on me and I had no choice but to be responsible and take ownership of my life decisions. Since then, Miko has been the stability I didn’t have with my nomad life: I’ve moved 9 times in France and England within the last 13 years. Cats are creatures of habit and don’t usually enjoy changing their territory so regularly, but he has never seemed too bothered. Or maybe he knew it was my style. He’s the one who picked me after all, not the other way around, and that makes a huge difference.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France

Two is better than one

Now that he’s a senior cat (13 cat years is equivalent to 68 human years!), I thought it would be nice to give him a feline friend… A human’s company doesn’t always compensate the special bond they develop with each other. If you think cats are solitary animals who enjoy spending time alone, you couldn’t be more wrong.

I had to separate him from his sister when I adopted him, because I couldn’t afford both of them at the time. She was all black, that’s why I started to look for a similar cat online and found our second cat Luna. Sometimes I wonder if he knows exactly why I picked her. These two are so happy together now, it fills our hearts with joy every time we look at them. Of course they also fight sometimes (like siblings would do) but I know it was meant to be. Do you also believe everything happens for a reason?

miko and luna on the sofa

How pets help you make healthy lifestyle changes

Among all the things I can think of, they:

  • encourage you to exercise and help you lose weight (in case of dogs)
  • encourage playfulness and laughter
  • can make you socialise with other animal lovers (I strongly believe someone who loves animals can’t be a bad person)
  • give you a healthy routine (I have to wake up every day at the same time to feed my cats – no matter what my mood is…)

How pets impact your overall health

And they also:

  • are a great motivator
  • relax and calm your mind when you stroke them
  • can lower your blood pressure in stressful situations
  • are great company and give you a sense of security
  • fulfil the basic human need for touch
  • make you feel needed
  • increase our sense of self-esteem and wellbeing
  • teach you how to live in the moment (they don’t worry about the past or the future)
  • teach kids empathy and sense of responsibility, as well as building better relationships with other people
  • are great help to people in later life, but also to children with ADHD or autism

Note: By no means I recommend you to adopt a pet as the solution if you’re temporarily feeling anxious, depressed or lonely. An animal is a huge responsibility and it’s important not to take this decision lightly. A good animal charity would ensure your home is suitable for them. They’re not “just for Christmas”, or “just for lockdown” either.

Do you believe in the pet effect and the human-animal bond? You can get involved, support HABRI (the Human Animal Bond Research Institute) by: donating, becoming an advocate or simply staying informed!

Big Girl x

How the Pandemic Impacted My Social Life & Relationships

How the Pandemic Impacted My Social Life & Relationships

We’ve all been impacted one way or another by the pandemic this year… When it all started, I thought the world would be in crisis for maybe 6 months and then quickly recover from it. When I came back to London in April, I was convinced my fiancé and I would be able to get married in November this year. I remember saying to my close family: “It will be sorted out by then!”, they were a bit hesitant to agree and I thought they were pessimistic. As we’re now entering cold months and this virus is going to keep threatening us for at least another 6 months (or am I being too optimistic again?), I thought it was a good time to reflect on how the pandemic has impacted all types of relationships.

Family

Family reunion

My mum was born and raised in Japan, she moved permanently in France by herself when she was almost 18. A few years later, she married a French man (my dad) and started a family. I guess it made it difficult for her to go back to her native country. That’s the price you pay when you choose to build your life abroad… You might never go back to your roots. I might have subconsciously walked in her footsteps when I decided to come to England 8 years ago.

Even though England is a lot closer to France than Japan, I don’t see my family very often. It doesn’t compare to people who live a few minutes away from their parents for example. On top of that, the current covid rules mean we can’t travel easily at the moment. The positive impact is we talk more regularly over the phone. Keeping in touch to say nothing has never meant so much.

Friends

friends jumping in the air

I have friends all over the world. People usually choose to be friends with like-minded people, so I guess it makes sense that I keep in touch with people who have lived in different places throughout their lives. But one of the consequences is I don’t see them very regularly. Distance has never been an obstacle to our friendship though. A negative impact of this pandemic is to not being able to plan when we’ll see each other again. We can’t make any travelling plans until the situation gets a bit less murky. Basically, my wedding is supposed to be the next time we’ll see each other, in November 2021. But even that is not guaranteed…

Colleagues

colleagues around table

I quit my job before travelling last year and I haven’t found a new job since I got back. Maybe the absence of colleagues is the direct consequence of this pandemic for me! The job market is not exactly what it used to be. If anything, this situation made me question what type of job I should look for.

This blog is my full time job for now, it feels like I’m working from home. I like the tranquillity of my own office room at home, the liberty of listening to music if I want to, the easy access to my own kitchen to cook something healthy for lunch, the presence of my cats and of course the shortest commute I will ever have, from my bedroom to my desk. I don’t know when this situation will change but I learnt to enjoy it while it lasts.

Love

couple at sunset

When we were abroad for so long, friends & family were wondering if our relationship would either make or break. Some couples may split up after spending some time abroad, because travelling changes people’s mindset forever. But we knew we were made for each other before planning such a trip.

We had been on the road for 5 months before coming back. Having no choice but to stick with each other during a national lockdown was never going to be difficult in comparison. We also used to work together before, so we were already used to spending most of our time together. If anything, it confirmed to us we can’t wait to get married.

Pets

cat and dog cuddling

I personally can’t see my life without pets. It doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by lots of people already, pets are not just for lonely people. They love you in a different way than humans, they don’t judge, they empathise with your emotions, they don’t have to do much to comfort you when you’re sad… And they’re so cute. There’s been a rise in pet adoptions since lockdown, let’s just hope people who adopted were fully aware of the responsibilities involved in owning a pet and that the abandonment rate will not also increase later on.

I already had a cat but always wanted a little sister for him. To me, that was the right moment to do it. Many charities warned against pet adoption during the pandemic but I knew what I was doing. I now have 2 cats who not only love each other but make me even happier than I was before! I would have adopted another kitten at some point anyway… But the extra time lately made it easier to properly take care of our new family member.

Nature

nature sunset

I think it’s fair to say my relationship with nature has also changed. Being able to take some fresh air is underrated. Seeing the positive impact on having less people polluting (thanks to covid19) made me realise how overcrowded our planet is. We’re currently damaging it by replacing the wild with the tame. It made me want to be more careful and considerate about my actions and their consequences on a bigger scale.

“Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.” – Bruce Feiler

How did the pandemic impact your relationship with the world?

Big Girl x