Having PTSD is hard. Being on constant alert, constantly anxious and going over unpleasant scenarios through your head on repeat is hard. It can be a major challenge to find any source of comfort. I know because my husband suffers from PTSD. As a combat veteran who served two tours of duty in the middle east, he has had his fair share of life-threatening situations to ruminate over. He has born witness to human tragedy and suffering at it’s greatest and I think pieces of that will always be with him. It has been hard for him, to find peace, to find solace. However, one place I know he does find it; is in the eyes of our furry family members.

The benefits on our mental health that animals bring is outstanding and overwhelmingly backed by science. Particularly, dogs are very good for our mental health. It is good, then, that my husband has, in our yellow lab Baldr, a true companion and friend. One of the major benefits of having a dog is that they become in tune with your emotions. Anytime my husband is feeling anxious, our yellow lab can sense it, and is right at my husband’s side and giving kisses.

Another mental health benefit of having dogs is that they improve our level of physical activity. Weather we are taking them for walks, throwing a ball, or playing tug-of-war, dogs help us move more – which is very good for our mental well being. Having dogs, or any other pet for that matter, also gives us people a sense of purpose. For some who are lost in the darkness of depression or other mental health struggles, having a clear and defined purpose can help them feel they have a reason to get out of bed in the morning and a purpose for being.

For veterans, having a dog can offer them companionship and unconditional love. Did you know unconditional love is a basic human need? We cannot live without it. Many veterans, especially those dealing with PTSD, are very isolated. They can have a very difficult time reaching out, engaging in conversation or making friends. It is critical that every human being have companionship, and for veterans in need – dogs can be just that. Dogs can also serve as a starting point for veterans, or others, to meet more people and be an easy conversation point to start off on.

Overall, animals benefit us in many ways and improve our mental health. For those who struggle with complex mental health issues or live with neurological differences,  animals can make a huge difference in their lives.

 

-Alyssa Harrington

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