How Pets Help Us Live Our Best Lives During The Pandemic
To say that the pandemic has caused a lot of challenges for businesses, education, people, and joy in general would be an understatement. I’m no expert, but if it’s possible that the universe just forgot to put the top on the blender for its morning smoothie one day, it should be getting close to cleaning all the strawberries off the kitchen cabinets by now. In 2021 we can only hope, right?
After the number of adults reporting anxiety and depressive disorder increased to 56% in 2020, we thought we’d look into some of the ways people can improve their mental health during the pandemic. After much research, we’re pleased to announce that although having to constantly mute and unmute the microphone in zoom meetings due to high-pitched meows or aggressive water drinking in the background, being around pets has proven to be one of the best things for our mental health during isolation.
Owning a pet has shown to not only decrease blood pressure and lower cholesterol, but also reduce feelings of loneliness. So, if you’re anything like me and spend your Saturday nights watching chubby dachshund videos while softly tearing up at how short their legs are and think, “I should get a dog, or two...” we’re here to tell you, that could be exactly what you need.
Benefits of Owning a Pet—What the Experts Have to Say
Whether your business is safely switching back to the office after vaccines or has made the decision to permanently stick to Zoom meetings and virtual happy hours, having pets around can be a significant mood booster. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that our mental health should not be neglected, but rather prioritized. This is what the experts have to say about the positive impacts that come from owning a pet not only in isolation, but in general:
#1 - Pets Create A Sense of Consistency and Reliability
“Many people had routines that they cherished before the pandemic. But all of a sudden, they couldn’t spend a night each week at run-group or DnD with friends at a pub. But at least in the absence of those rituals and routines, people still have the consistency of walking dogs each morning, or playing with hamsters every afternoon. In the absence of all the other normal things, pets provide at least a little bit of consistency. Having a pet adds an extra sense of purpose. It's been helpful for some people in keeping it together, because they have pets that they have to take care of. You can’t stay in bed all day, because you have to get up to feed and exercise your pet. And from there, it feels a little bit easier to start on the work you need to get done—it gets rid of some of the barrier to starting. Just being able to do one thing can help make it easier to do the other, more complicated things, like completing your remote work or getting the kitchen cleaned up. It’s generally a very reliable, consistent relationship, which is important to people when they’re struggling with mental health, especially in a world that feels out of control.”
Thanks to Julie, Plan Your Recovery
#2 - Pets Encourage Fun, Silly, and Creative Activities
“Playing with pets creates a sense of joy and fun that has been harder to access during pandemic shut-downs. A lot of fun and stress relieving activities are not available, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by high-stress news cycles, but pets can remind people to still engage in fun, creative, or silly activities that boost mood and overall outlook on life. Dogs in particular have been very important for increasing the amount of time the people spend outside. It is easy during quarantine to find yourself working and hanging out inside all day, but walking the dog encourages people to get more sun, exercise, and fresh air than they might otherwise.”
Thanks to Lauren, Natural Embodiment LLC
3# - Caring for Pets Helps Us Remember to Care For Ourselves
“Being able to focus on a dependent allows us to take a break from our own problems. If you don't have a pet to take care of, you might be tempted to skip meals or do nothing all day. I think of animals as a personal life coach that prompts us to be better than we would be without them.”
“Simply petting a dog or cat can have therapeutic benefits. Having your pet nearby while you work can help you stay focused. Humans find comfort in what they love. We are hard-wired to release serotonin when we experience touch, but even looking at your pet can boost your happiness levels. It's my experience that a happy worker is a productive one.”
Thanks to Rachel, Animalso
#4 - Owning a Pet Releases Stress-Relieving Hormones
“Pets have been found to have all sorts of mental health benefits, from the stress-relieving benefits of oxytocin to antidepressant effects. When you look at your pet, your body releases oxytocin, the 'love hormone', which has stress-relieving effects all over the body. The sense of routine, companionship, and unconditional love that a pet brings has been central to some people's pandemic experience. In fact, studies have shown that pet owners have experienced less loneliness and mental health deterioration than non-pet owners during lockdown.”
Thanks to Dr. Joanna, Breed Advisor
#5 Pet Sounds and Fur Texture are Calming
“Cat purrs have a sound frequency of 20-140 Hertz. Being around sounds and vibrations in this range is extremely beneficial to humans. The sound itself is extremely relaxing for the human brain. It works similarly to relaxation, sleep, or meditation music, which encompasses a range of sounds of a certain frequency meant to generate a certain reaction. Hearing the sound of the purring reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. Purring has also been shown to decrease the symptoms of dyspnoea, lower blood pressure, heal infections and inflammation, and even reduce the risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease by 40%. Petting for an extended amount of time can bring down a person’s heart rate.”
“The vast majority of cats develop sleeping habits together with their owners. Having your cat curl up next to you or at your feet is not only a cozy moment, but it also plays an important role in setting up good sleep hygiene through setting a habit that the cat also relies on.”
Thanks to Jenny, Floppy Cats
#6 Pets Can Teach Us More Than We Know
“We can learn a lot from our pets – and even some tricks to help us remain healthier. First, don’t sweat the small stuff. Companion animals mostly care about food, love and shelter (not always in that order). As long as they have those things, they don’t need much else.”
“They aren’t worried if their collar is prettier than the neighbor’s collar. They aren’t worried if they have more grey hair than the other. They live each day to the fullest and if that means spending it relaxing in the sun, then they will do just that.”
“They don’t dwell on the past. They also don’t worry about the future. And most importantly, they love unconditionally. All these things we could learn to do in our own lives and I am sure our stress levels would go down, our blood pressure would stabilize and our happiness would go way up. Plus – more people would want to be around us.”
Thanks to Dr. Mary, Lap of Love
How Pets Increase Productivity While Working
For those of us working from home, I’m sure we all share fond memories of fluffy tails floating in the corner of a Zoom call or a slobbery kiss interrupting a coworker mid-sentence. It’s guaranteed to get a smirk out of someone and maybe a discrete private message showing appreciation for the level of cuteness during a meeting scheduled too close to lunch time. Simply put, pets reduce stress and less stress allows people to think more clearly, focus more, and be more positive and prepared for work-related issues that pop up. These are just a few ways pets can help us be our best selves when conquering the work day:
- Taking Breaks. Frequent breaks have been shown to increase creativity, reduce decision-fatigue, restore motivation, and improve learning. When working from home or even taking pets to the office, pets are very good at telling us when it’s time to step away from a computer screen. Whether it’s for a quick cuddle-sesh, potty-break, or a reminder to get a snack and re-fuel our minds, the responsibility of caring for them can be just the push we need to care for ourselves.
- Fostering Community With Pet Zooms. It’s no secret that pets can often become the main topic of discussion whether they’ve abruptly interrupted your work meetings or not. Sharing stories about your pets is a great way to get to know new employees virtually and build new relationships. Positive social interactions within the work environment will help keep people’s minds at ease when getting through the work day.
- Encouraging Exercise. Whether you have a dog or a cat, both have a need to get a little vitamin D in their day. Although dogs might be a little more pushy when it comes to going outside and exploring, they’ll both get you moving. Just thirty minutes of exercise a day from throwing a frisbee to going for a walk or a run has serious benefits in overall health and work productivity. In fact, people who exercise during the workday have shown a 72% improvement in their time-management and completed workload on days that they have physical activity.
Our Experience with Mental Health Improvements Due to Pets
Q: During the pandemic, how has having a pet affected your overall mental health?
“Having my cat around has been a really important part of staying happy during the pandemic. While she may not be as thankful to have us around as a dog might be, her presence brings us a lot of joy. Plus, when certain things are out of your control, having something to take care of and look out for is grounding and centering. There's really nothing like taking a short break and going to pet a soft, sleepy kitty to make you feel refreshed and relaxed. There are studies that say the act of petting an animal produces stress-reducing hormones and I know that in our household we have seen that firsthand.”
Molly Weybright, Content Strategist
“I have three pets currently: Daisy, Bubbles, and Lily! My two dogs and cat have made my life even more amazing, even if they are not good boys and girls all the time. During the pandemic and even before I have always thought of my pets as my personal emotional support animals. There is nothing else I would rather do than get a nice snuggle pile going on my bed or couch after a hard day, not to say anytime isn’t a good time for a snuggle fest.”
Ariel Owens, Client Success and Support Specialist
“Our two dogs have received a lot of special attention during the pandemic. Working from home (and having my kids attending school from home) has meant that they are hardly ever alone. That's a big change from our fast paced pre-pandemic life. The dogs have been walked in the last year probably more than ever, and spending time outside and getting some exercise is good for the physical and mental wellbeing of the dogs and owners. They are both over 13 years old, so it's been nice to spend so much time with them as they approach their "golden years.'' They've been great with keeping the kids company, and any time the kids are entertained the whole family is happy.”
Brian Abernethy, CEO
Creating A Pet Policy For Your Business
As the world slowly settles back into a safe space for face-to-face conversions and double-dipping in tubs of queso after shamelessly licking our fingers, going back to the office after working from home could be a big transition. You might miss some of the things about your cozy home office, but just because you’re in an office doesn’t mean you can’t implement some of the helpful habits you formed while working remote. This could be anything from listening to the perfect playlist to help you focus, moving your adorable plant collection to your office window and, of course, taking your amazing pets to work with you.
At Service Direct, before working remote, having animals in the office was always something our employees looked forward to. The enthusiastic welcomes and tail wags at the door were a great encouragement that the day had a lot of good things in store.
We asked our CEO, Brian, why he decided to have a pet policy in the office. This is his response:
“Our position on pets in the office came about organically. When we were first getting started my business partner John would come work at my home-office every day. My dogs were always around then and soon once we had our own separate small office it felt natural to occasionally bring the dogs. The trend increased once we grew into a larger space with a private yard. This made it easy for employees to bring their pups to work and most days you'd find at least one dog hanging out in the office. People have been respectful about the policy, bringing only (mostly) well behaved dogs and not overdoing it.”
Here are some things to keep in mind for a pet policy when allowing pets into the office:
Last but not least, have fun with it! Some rules are necessary to make sure everyone is comfortable and safe including our fellow pets, but at the end of the day it’s about being respectful of the space we’re sharing with others. Our pets can add so much joy to our day by reminding us to make time for the little things in life. So if you’re having a tough time going back into the office, maybe it’s time to take your pets along!
Animals Still Searching For Their Perfect Home
After going through all the benefits pets can offer our offices, homes, and our sanity, it’s only natural to want to return the favor. If you don’t already have a house full of fur and have been considering adding a new member to your family, adoption is a great way to help an animal in need and build an unforgettable bond.
Out of 70 million stray animals in the U.S., only 6 to 8 million of them make it to shelters every year. Making the decision to adopt will ensure the animals safety and inevitably change your life for the better. With the increase of time people had on their hands during the beginning of the pandemic, we were curious about the effect it’s had on pet adoptions. After reaching out to Petfinder, we were pleased to hear that adoption inquiries more than doubled during the first month of the pandemic. Plus, there was a 20% increase in pet searches overall and a 36% increase in dog inquiries via Petfinder.
So without further ado, let’s see if we can keep increasing those stats! Even if you have a full house and your pets have already taken over your couch and your bed, it can’t hurt to look at these adorable animals in need and think of someone else who can bring one of these furry friends home.
Long story short, if you’re struggling with isolation and wondering what can help boost your mood during the pandemic, adopt a pet. We have a feeling you won’t regret it!