Depression is a condition that affects around 40 million adults in the United States alone. Thankfully, there are many ways for those who are suffering from depression to feel better. Having a licensed psychiatrist to speak with, along with being prescribed specific medications is often an effective path to recovery. With that being said, there are many different things that one can do on their own that can help their condition, such as eating healthy and exercising, for example.
In fact, according to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, dogs have the ability to combat depression in your life and actually create happiness in your world. They point to the fact that interacting with dogs actually reduces stress, depression and anxiety, along with easing feelings of loneliness.
If you are living with depression, there are many different ways that having a pet can help lift the fog of sadness for you. Let’s take a minute to discuss how this can happen for you.
It has been proven that people who have dogs have lower blood pressure, and in turn have less of a chance of developing heart disease. Did you know that when you simply play with dogs, your dopamine and oxytocin levels become elevated? This translates into positive feelings felt by you, which will benefit your pet at the same time. In addition to this, having a dog in your life encourages exercise which can improve your overall health.
When sadness runs deep, and tears flow, your pet will be right there by your side. Their love is unconditional. Perhaps you are feeling lonely, but you aren’t really in the mood to entertain friends or guests. No worries, your sweet doggie is there to keep you company. Not wearing any makeup? Your precious pet sees your beautiful soul and never judges you.
The healing power of touch is well-documented. When you pet a dog, your blood pressure lowers, and your body is flooded with serotonin and dopamine. In this way, your physical body and emotional wellbeing are closely linked. This is only one reason why some people who have been through traumatic experiences choose to have emotional support dogs. These animals offer invaluable support to those who are dealing with emotional disabilities or difficulties.
Here is how pets can transform our behaviour. Perhaps you had a bad day at work. Maybe it was one of those days where everything seemed to go wrong. So, you come home from work, and maybe you are close to taking your frustration out on someone that you love, when low and behold, here comes your furry friend. She comes over to you, rubbing her head on your leg, begging for your love. In turn, you kneel down and pet her. She lovingly gives her sweet kisses to you on your face. This makes you feel happy, and smile as a result. Your dog has just transformed your mood.
Many of us spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about all of the “what ifs” in life. For those struggling with depression, it can be hard to quiet all of the distracting thoughts in your mind that are causing you sadness and despair. However, when you have a precious animal that is in front of you, begging for your attention, you have no choice but to be drawn out of your thoughts, and step into the present moment.
Just like a child does, our pets rely on us to take care of them. Having a pet is a great responsibility. Taking ownership of a task, such as caring for a pet promotes positive mental health. When we succeed at taking good care of a dog for example, this creates a positive reinforcement within ourselves that we are capable enough of taking care of another creature, and in turn gives us confidence that we can take care of ourselves as well.