Living with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health condition can be difficult, but some people have found that owning a pet can ease feelings of stress and loneliness. Whilst cats and dogs are the go-to options for many, a certain floppy-eared, fluffy-tailed animal can also make a great, therapeutic companion. We are, of course, talking about the overlooked rabbit!
We’re going to delve into the seven ways rabbits can improve your mental health and why you should consider welcoming one into your life. Let’s go!
1. Lower stress and anxiety levels
It’s no secret that interacting with cute animals can make us feel happy. Many studies have shown that playing with our pets can raise serotonin and dopamine levels. These “happy hormones” help relax and calm our nervous system and give us a much-needed boost of happiness.
Moreover, when we stroke our pets, it releases oxytocin, which reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. In a 2003 study, a group of adults was asked to pet a turtle, rabbit, or toy. Those that stroked the animals experienced a reduction in their stress and anxiety levels. Interestingly, this was not restricted to animal lovers.
So, having a cute rabbit to play with and cuddle may help to improve your mood and give you something to look forward to when you’re having a bad day.
Do note, however, that only some rabbits will like to be picked up and cuddled for long periods of time. You will have to make sure you give them an escape route just in case they’re not feeling particularly sociable.
There’s nothing quite like the bond between pets and their owners. As a constant presence in our homes, pets quickly become a part of the family that we cherish more than anything else. Don’t just take our word for it, though!
- 92% say that their rabbit is part of the family
- 42% say that their rabbit is a companion
- 37% say that their rabbit is their best friend
It’s not a one-way street, either! The survey also found that rabbits aren’t shy in showing their owners just how much they love them back:
- 78% say their rabbit comes to them for affection
- 74% say their rabbit is excited to see them
- 48% say their rabbit gives them kisses
- 48% say their rabbit follows them around the house
Knowing that your floppy-eared companion is waiting for you at home can go a long way towards reducing your stress, loneliness and anxiety.
3. Building connections
Another advantage of owning a rabbit is that it can help you connect with other people more easily. For example, if you struggle with social anxiety, your pet provides a common topic for you to discuss with others. Who doesn’t love to share adorable photos and funny stories about their pets?
You’ll also end up interacting with other rabbit owners and expanding your social circle when:
- Asking health or maintenance questions on forums
- Heading to your vets for regular check-ups
- Going to the store to pick up supplies
Connecting with others can profoundly affect your wellbeing, resulting in higher self-esteem and confidence, a more positive outlook and reduced stress.
4. Routine and responsibilities
It can be challenging to muster up the energy to simply get out of bed in the morning when we’re struggling with our mental health. When our days lack structure, however, it can make us feel even worse.
Pets offer us a solution to this problem. A 2018 meta-analysis found that pets provided people with “a sense of purpose and gave meaning to their lives [...] and hope for the future”.
Indeed, with a rabbit, you’ve got to create a routine that ensures they are well looked after and happy. You are responsible for getting up and feeding them, cleaning their hutch and playing with them. This can give you a sense of control, pride and empowerment.
5. Increase in physical activity
Whilst rabbits do not require you to exert as much energy as dogs (you’re obviously not going to take them on a walk around your local park), they still need you to keep moving throughout the day.
Rabbits need a lot of physical and mental stimulation to stay happy and active, so you’ll need to play with them regularly and make sure they have plenty of room to move around. You’ll also need to clean their cage or hutch daily and head to the shop to pick up food, litter and other supplies.
Sitting still can often make us dwell on our intrusive thoughts or deep-rooted worries. With a rabbit, however, you can build a new, moderately physical routine that will keep you busy and focused.
6. Peaceful environment
One of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety is by creating a peaceful home environment where you can properly relax. It can be difficult to fit certain pets into this peaceful paradise, however. Cats and dogs, for example, can be high-maintenance pets that disrupt your relaxation with their need for constant attention.
Rabbits, on the other hand, can fit into this tranquil setting very easily. They are quiet, docile animals that are content to play alone in their hutch or sit by you while you unwind at the end of the day.
So, whether you’re trying to catch those extra Z’s or practising mindfulness meditation, your fluffy companion can be a calm, comforting presence that keeps you focused on yourself.
7. Validation and a lack of judgement
When we’re struggling with our mental health, it can be difficult to talk about what’s going on in our heads with those we love. Many people in this situation often find solace in their furry companions.
A 2016 study looked at the roles of pets in the everyday lives of people diagnosed with long-term mental health conditions. Its participants credited their pets with understanding their problems and accepting them “without judgement or resentment”. Furthermore, unlike friends and family, they seemed to intuitively know when to leave their owners alone.
If you’re having a rough day, it can help immensely to know that you can vent to your rabbit without fear of judgement and the knowledge that they will always offer you unconditional love. It’s a great stepping stone for people who want to talk about their problems but can’t quite find the courage to do so with loved ones.
Having a rabbit to come home to at the end of a difficult day can be therapeutic and a huge relief, especially for people with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
Do note, however, that while rabbits can improve your mental health, they are not a substitute for therapy or medication. If you’re struggling, you need to seek out professional help.
Looking for more ways to give your mental health a boost? Try starting these 3 habits today.
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