“Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression,” says Ian Cook, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA.
Studies show that animals can reduce tension and improve mood. Along with treatment, pets can help some people with mild to moderate depression feel better. If you’re depressed, here’s a rundown of how pets could help.
Easy love. If your relationships are complicated and draining, having the unconditional love of a pet can ease your anxiety.
Responsibility. If taking care of a pet seems daunting, especially if you’re feeling like you can barely take care of yourself, experts say adding a little responsibility adds a new and positive focus in your life. “Taking care of a pet can help give you a sense of your own value and importance”, says Book.
Activity. Pets also get you off the couch because they need walking or at the very least some playtime. Physical activity is good for your mental and physical health.
Routine. Animals have a natural routine and can help you keep a daily schedule, which helps you, stay on track.
Companionship. Depression can make you pull back from your friends and family and with a pet you’re never alone.
Social interaction. Having a pet puts you out there, giving you more social interaction. People love to talk about their pets so they’re natural icebreakers getting even the shyest of folks to interact.
Touch. We feel better when we have physical contact with others but petting your pet is similar. The act of petting is relaxing and anything relaxing or enjoyable helps boost endorphins and other mood-boosting neurochemicals. Studies have shown that petting a dog can lower your heart rate too.
Better health. There are a lot of studies that show how pet ownership has a positive impact on your life from lowering blood pressure, reducing stress hormones, boosting levels of feel-good hormones and even visiting the doctor less.
Help a pet. Visit your animal shelter or adopt through a reliable agency because there’s a pet looking for a forever home.
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