The Mental Health Benefits of Volunteering for an Animal Shelter
For 2020, we all have our resolutions. Some of us want to lose weight or make more money. In the end, most of these connect to wanting better mental health. We want to have more peace of mind and confidence in ourselves.
One way you can do this is by volunteering at your local animal shelter. Animal shelters need all the help they can get, especially as we enter the new decade. If you love your dog, be it a pet or a therapy animal, you know that they provide mental health benefits. Here are some Benefits of animal shelters that can improve your well-being even more.
It Feels Right
The first reason why working at an animal shelter is good for your mental health is because of what you’re doing. If you work at a shelter, especially a no-kill that treats its furry friends right, you know you’re doing a service. You’re taking all the homeless pets and helping them find a home they can call their own. In the meanwhile, you’re playing with, feeding, and providing for all the animals that are there.
Feeling like you're a part of something is great for your mental health. Some people use their faith, their career, or something else to get that feeling, but if you don’t have anything that gives you that emotion, volunteering at a shelter may be the solution you need.
You Form Bonds With the Animals
One big reason why volunteering improves your overall mental health is that you bond with the dogs and cats that come there. Many animals may not have much interaction with humans or are a little timid because of something that happened in their past. However, when you bond with them and let them come out of their shell, they slowly open up and be your friend. They learn to love human interaction, increasing their likelihood of adoption.
You may think that having to say goodbye to so many pets would be a bad thing, but you know your bond has given that dog a forever home, and you just feel so good watching them go home with their new owner.
You Improve Your Social Bonds
Besides working with animals, you're going to work with humans as well. This isn’t like having a coworker at a measly job; all of you have a shared interest, and it’s easy to talk to one another because of it. You’ll find that talking to the co-volunteers is easy and you all can hit it off, talking about which dog is your favorite or your own pets in your personal life. This speaks of the benefits of animal shelters.
Making friends and socializing is overall good for your mental health, even if you're not the most social person out there. Just casual interaction with people is enough for you to feel better in regards to your overall mental health. It doesn’t have to be a friend; it can be a coworker, psychologist, or anyone else.
You Spend Time Outside
When you think of an animal shelter, you may imagine being indoors all day, but this isn’t true. Most animal shelters have an outside area, which you’ll find yourself in often. Playing with the dogs, giving them room to walk and stretch their legs, and doing outside volunteer work, just to name a few examples. If you've always been a shut-in, volunteering at an animal shelter can feel good for the mind because of the sun. You get your vitamin D and you feel much more energetic. Your mental health may skyrocket because of this.
You Get Exercise
As mentioned, you may do a lot of walking. A shelter volunteer is always on their feet, and not in the menial labor kind of way. You may find yourself chasing dogs or stretching along with cats. Exercise, be it mild or challenging, can improve your mental health quite a bit. Your brain releases endorphins that make you feel amazing.
It Helps With Anxiety, Depression, Stress, and More
If you have chronic anxiety, stress, or depression, playing with an animal may help with it. It’s not a magic cure, but petting a dog or feeling a cat’s purr may relieve your stress, lower your blood pressure, and make you forget about life’s troubles. If you have severe anxiety or depression, you should seek help. With that said, caring for pets is just one of the many tools that can help with how you feel.
You Gain Confidence
Volunteering at an animal shelter is great for a resume. If you’re looking for a job, or just want to add to your experience, going to an animal shelter is a smart move. For a future career involving animals or a similar endeavor, your volunteer work can help make you more confident with that.
Learning Time Management
If you're poor with time management, volunteering at a shelter may help you. It’s like any job, where you have to be there at a certain hour and notify someone if you're going to be late. If you have no previous job experience, volunteering at a shelter can teach you how to manage your time, and this can not only benefit you in any future career, but it also helps you with other life situations that require you to be on time.
It Teaches You to Handle the Bad Alongside the Good
An animal shelter is not all sunshine and rainbows. Quite often, you may have animals who are sick or abused. You may have to take care of an elderly pooch who can no longer take care of himself. A sick or elderly animal is an event most pet owners have to face, and learning how to handle that and embrace the good is important for anyone who is trying to build character.
Benefits Animal Shelter Volunteer
Finally, we should mention that most people aren’t going to start off handling animals. Instead, they may have to clean the shelter or do office work. You can still reap the mental health benefits of feeling like you're a part of something, but
How to Volunteer
Don’t know where to begin if you want to volunteer? Here’s a quick guide to help you out.
Look Up Shelters
Most towns have at least one animal shelter, while a bigger city may have multiple. Figuring out which shelter you want to volunteer is important if there’s more than one. Some people may go for a shelter that’s the closest to them, while others may pick a shelter that has the best reputation. Either way, make your decision.
Contact Your Shelter
Your first move should be to contact your animal shelter. You can give them a call, or check their website. Almost all shelters should have a contact page where you can send them an email. You can check Facebook or Twitter and look for a business page or profile and send them a message. Then, you can get more directions.
See What They Have
Your shelter should be able to tell you what they have available. Most shelters are always seeking help. If there are no positions available, feel free to ask if there’s anything you can do for them, or ask to be put on a waiting list for a position.
Ask About Off-Site Events
If there doesn’t seem to be any job in the shelter, why not ask about the off-site events? The shelters always have events, such as adoption events at a pet shop, or setting up a parade float. There, they’ll need people and this can allow you to get your foot in the door for volunteering.
Afterward, fill out the application. A pet shelter application is like any other, where you have to provide your information and give relevant experience. Make sure all the information is as accurate as possible before you send it in, and make sure your contact information is up to date.
Make Sure You Have the Time
Finally, make sure that volunteering fits into your schedule. Shelters will have different times to volunteer, and many have flexible hours. However, if you have a job, are going to school, and are balancing other aspects of life, it’s important you don’t put too much on your plate. This can counteract the positive Benefits Animal Shelter volunteers can have.
Find Your Animal Niche
Are you good with dogs? Cats? Another type of animal the shelter has? Or, are you great with all animals? Knowing your experience can help you find the right fit for a job at the shelter, so find that.
For 2020, volunteering at a shelter can be amazing for your mental health. Besides giving you job experience for a possible career with animals, helping those in need feels great for the mind.
Even if you can’t volunteer, consider adopting a pet from a shelter. Adopting, not shopping does good for the pet population and ensures a healthy, happy pet who will love you forever.