Addiction treatment can be supplemented by all kinds of external efforts: a solid exercise routine, a supportive community or even a good night’s sleep. One unexpected way you can enhance your well-being in addiction treatment is caring for a pet. Here are seven ways a pet can contribute to your recovery process, and what to do if you plan on getting one.

1. A pet can make treatment more manageable and more successful

Research has shown that for some people, animal-assisted therapy could be a useful tool to decrease the time required for addiction treatment. If you decide to get a pet, make sure you find one that fits your personality and your living requirements. This includes the type of home you live in, if you have access to a yard and how much time you have. Check for potential allergies as well.

2. A pet gives you a chance to practice and build relationships

A pet is a perfect way to practice building healthy relationships. When you get a pet, you should spend time with it every day. You could even take it out hiking with you or camping. Getting to experience nature together is a great way to bond with your pet. When you’re able to build a happy relationship with your pet, you can transfer those skills to people and recognize the importance of patience and forgiveness.

3. A pet can help build a supportive social network

To take relationship-building a step further, utilizing your pet to meet new people is a great way to bond with your pet and make new human friends. An article published from Harvard Health notes that dog owners have been able to make friends with fellow owners. You can meet people at a dog park, or if you have other kinds of pets, you can attend meetups. A good social network can help prevent relapse and establish positive bonds.

4. Decrease stress

Researchers have found that when people are conducting a stressful task, they feel less stressed when a pet is nearby. This is great for addiction recovery, as stress can lead to relapse. Just as your pet helps lower your stress, you should do the same for your pet.

When you adopt a pet, you should help make it feel at home as much as possible right away. Prepare your home to be pet-friendly, and get a few toys and a nice bed. If you’ve adopted a pet from a shelter, definitely take extra precautions to reassure it that it’ll be safe.

5. Pets alter behavior and promote responsibility

An article in Psych Central mentioned the ability of pets to feel empathy for their owners and their pain. This empathy can help you make a transition from a melancholy to a happier state, as well as help you recognize the need to take care of your little one. You’ll feel reinforced as you see that you are capable of taking care of another living thing, which can help you recover more effectively.

6. Physical affection is therapeutic

The physical affection you receive from your pet can release oxytocin, a hormone that reduces anxiety. As you bond with your pet, don’t be afraid to give it affection. If your pet is a rescue, a gentle touch is especially important to reassure it of its safety.

7. Help decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety

Studies have shown that people who have pets while in drug rehabilitation experience decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety. This can be encouraging, as the addiction recovery process can be arduous.

Pets are a meaningful addition to anyone’s life. If you’re looking to get your first pet, take your time in researching the best kind for you. A pet is a commitment and can help you weather life’s ups and downs.

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