In keeping with SAMHIN’s mission of greater dialogue on mental health in the South Asian community and to highlight the important work of others in this area, we invited Vennela Challagondla, an aspiring physician, to share her experiences of her dog Harvey’s company.
For those who do not have a pet, it is difficult to understand the unconditional love and emotional support pets provide. My own best friend came into my life in 2016. He is a rambunctious Golden Retriever that has been by my family’s side through everything for the past seven years. He is another family member to us, and we love him more than life itself. There are days that I feel anxious, sad, or fatigued and he will lay down next to me or sit near my feet just to show that he is there for me no matter what.
Studies have shown that pets help to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; ease loneliness; encourage exercise; and improve your all-around health (Beetz et al., 2012). I can attest to this because Harvey helps me to get out of the house for a little bit each day to go on a walk, barks at me if I am on my computer for too long, and lazes on the couch with me after a long day. Although he is not a trained emotional support animal, sometimes I feel like he knows exactly how I am feeling and how he can help support me.
According to the American Heart Association, individuals with dogs tend to have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop heart disease. In addition, spending some time playing with a dog can increase levels of oxytocin and dopamine in humans, creating positive feelings and bonding for both the person and pet.
Even to this day, some people ask why we brought a dog home that sheds so much that we have to vacuum twice a week. However, all their questions are answered when they meet Harvey and see the unconditional love he offers people he has never met. Our mental health is extremely important in this day and age where there are so many stressors. I will be the first to admit that taking care of a pet is no easy task, but the rewards are unquantifiable.
Pets can reduce stresses that we bring home from work, help increase our productivity and motivation, help manage anxiety by providing companionship and support, help us remain active and get fresh air even with a busy lifestyle, and provide a sense of togetherness. The bond with a pet is like none other. I am always reminded of a quote that states that pets might be just a small part of our life, but to them, we are their entire life. Keeping this in mind, I constantly try to pay back just a little bit of the endless support Harvey has given me thus far.
By Vennela Challagondla
I am a Master of Public Health student who is passionate about advocating for mental health awareness. I have a degree in neuroscience and minor in psychology and am an aspiring medical student.
Do you have a pet? Tell us about your experiences.
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