During the course of a year, one in four people suffer some kind of depression. That’s a pretty alarming statistic. Whether it’s brought on by a relationship breakdown, change in life circumstances, birth of a child or bereavement, it’s an inescapable fact that depression affects a large percentage of the population. And whilst there are lots of treatments, counselling and support available, it’s also proven that a trusty four-legged friend can help coax you out of your melancholic slumber.
That’s right – pets can help you beat depression. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a dog, cat, rat, or goldfish (although you obviously can’t take that on a stroll through the park), pets have proven time and time again they can effectively conquer the effects of depression.
1) Uncomplicated Love
Life can be a complicated, messy business at the best of times, often exacerbated by family problems or relationship complications. With a dog or cat, there are no complications; things are very clear and very simple. You don’t have worry about upsetting someone or hurting their feelings. It’s an easy, stress-free relationship.
A lot of people suffering from depression can’t cope with a lot of responsibility, and are often even unable look after themselves. Pets, however, have been proven to give them the boost they need. It galvanises sufferers into action by caring for something, taking their mind off their worries and focusing on something other than themselves.
With canine companions in particular, you can get plenty of exercise and activity by taking them for walks. Some dog owners jest they don’t know who’s taking who for a walk, so you could end up getting more exercise than you bargained for! But physical exertion and activity through a pet’s interaction is great for reducing stress and improving your mental and physical health.
A lot of people suffering with depression have lost their way because they’re bereft of any kind of routine – they do very little or even nothing at all. Well, pets need routine, whether it’s being fed in the morning, afternoon and evening, being taken for walks, or shown intermittent (or frequent!) displays of affection. These routines can help release you from any apathetic inertia and give you the boost you need.
Dogs and cats are very good at picking up negative vibes and sensing when their owners are unhappy. Cats curl up affectionately on your lap and dogs are just as content sat at their master’s feet as they are in their dog beds. They might not be able to talk, but they can still communicate their affection to provide just the kind of reassurance and companionship you need.
6) Social Interaction
Granted, cats are more mercenary and isolated, but dogs love attention and thrive on interaction with humans and other dogs, so when you’re out in the park chances are you’ll meet other dog owners, get chatting – and who knows where that could lead?
7) Physical Contact
Everyone needs physical contact, and studies have shown that stroking a cat or dog can provide be extremely soothing and comforting as well as lowering your heart rate.
8) Energy and Laughter
Having a cat or dog can charge your batteries and raise your spirits. It’s said that laughter is the best medicine, and in the case of pets that’s often true. Just watch You’ve Been Framed to witness the crazy, kooky, comical collection of pet-based tomfoolery that’ll make you howl like a loon – which boosts your immune system and increases your energy.
9) General Health
In terms of overall health, research and studies have proven that pets can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and boost levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain. Pets can also help you sleep better and reduce sickness levels.
As you can see, having a pet supplies you with more than just having a furry, four-legged companion scampering around the house – they could be the key to beating depression and giving you a whole new lease of life.
Have you had any first-hand experience with pets helping you overcome bouts of depression? Your comments would be inspiring for others to hear, so share them in the comments below.
This is depressing (If you’re an Oilers fan):