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Feeling isolated and depressed? A furry friend could help with that

Animals don't just provide comfort, they also give their owners a sense of purpose that can improve mental wellness and thinking patterns.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — If you are a pet owner, you know how quickly our four-legged friends can feel like part of the family. But they aren't just fun family members. They can also have an impact on our mental health.

Collin Davies, a licensed psychological examiner and licensed professional counselor at New Path Mental Health and Wellness, is the proud dad of two pugs — Izzy and Peanut. Izzy even plays a role in his work.

"She is my coworker sitting in my lap," Davies said. "She interacts with my clients if I have a zoom session, and most of the time they enjoy having her as part of the appointment."

Animals don't just provide comfort, according to Davies, they also give their owners a sense of purpose that can improve mental wellness and thinking patterns.

"It gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning," he said.

Isolation can increase depression, impact sleep, weaken immunity, and have other health consequences. You can work to combat that by getting outside with your furry friend.

"Pet care and self-care are often linked," Davies said. "If you want to increase your activity level, you take your dog for a walk. You're going to not only be able to provide your pet with valuable time, but you're also doing something good for yourself. You're getting up and out of the house."

That can lead to new friendships with other pet owners who are out for a walk or at the dog park.

Whether it's a dog, cat, fish, or other creature — Davies says you might consider a pet, especially if you're struggling. But do your research and consider some of the challenges.

"I would recommend you make sure you have time to devote to your pet," he said. "You want to be able to make sure that you have financial stability for providing for that pet."

Click here to view more research about the power of pets.