Depression is a widespread issue affecting about 40 million adults. There are many ways to feel better. Exercise and healthy eating can help, as can opening up to and spending more time with family members, close friends and pets. Pets come with some powerful health benefits.
Among pets, dogs and cats can contribute more to your happiness. Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and improve your all-around health. Caring for an animal can help children grow up more secure and active. Pets also provide valuable companionship for older adults.
Pets can help you make healthy lifestyle changes:
Increasing exercise: Taking a dog for a walk, hike, or run are fun and rewarding ways to fit healthy daily exercise into your schedule. Because dogs need consistency, you’ll learn how to make exercise a daily routine instead of a once-in-a-while activity. Research has shown that consistency in one’s schedule can help reduce stress levels and lead to better sleep patterns and overall health.
Providing companionship: Companionship can help prevent illness and even add years to your life, while isolation and loneliness can trigger symptoms of depression. Having a companion can also prevent depression from worsening, especially therapy and service dogs who are constantly in tune to your needs. Caring for an animal gives you purpose, makes you feel wanted and helps take focus away from your depression.
Reducing anxiety: The companionship of an animal can offer comfort, help ease anxiety, and build self-confidence for people anxious about going out into the world. Because pets tend to live in the moment—they don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow; they can help you become more mindful and appreciate the joy of the present.
Providing stress relief: Touch and movement are two healthy ways to quickly manage stress. Stroking a dog, cat, or other animal can lower blood pressure and help you quickly feel calmer and less stressed. Dogs bring happiness into your life, and depression is often no match for the unconditional love they provide.
Self-Worth: Dogs can be a lot to handle, but research shows that responsibility helps your mental health. Some psychologists say that you build self-esteem by taking ownership and applying skills to a specific task. Taking care of a dog offers reassurance that you can care for another creature and for yourself.