How Dogs Can Help Fight Depression

how-dogs-can-help-with-depression

Being Less Lonely – How Dogs Can Help Fight Depression

There are many reasons why dogs are great – apart from the fact that they’re just so darn cute. But there are other ways in which our furry little friends can also be useful on a daily basis. Indeed, many people who have had issues with depression have stated that their pets aided them in overcoming such difficulties. So, what is it that makes dogs such great helpers in fighting depression? We’re about to give you a couple of the main reasons why! 

Unconditional Love

When you’re depressed, one of the most important things is having someone who supports you. But when it comes to mental health issues, people who suffer from them may be shunned by their friends and loved ones; even when it’s about depression. On the other hand, dogs aren’t judgemental; they’ve got no opinions or criticisms. No matter how badly you do in life, your dog will not abandon you; they will be there to offer your unconditional love and emotional acceptance.

Scientific studies show this as well. In fact, one study published in the Johns Hopkins medical journal described a study performed with nursing home residents. Some of these elderly people stated that they felt more alone when they had visitations from other residents and a dog, than when they had just more time to spend with the dog. 

The study was performed with almost 40 residents of the home for the elderly, who were already feeling quite lonely. And all of them were interested in getting a half-hour visitation from a puppy each week. Of those 40 residents, half were only given alone time with the dogs, while the others had to see the dogs together with other residents of the nursing home. While both test groups stated that they felt a smaller degree of loneliness after the visits; those who only spent time with the dogs were actually more pleased. In other words – most of us actually prefer to fill alone time with dogs than with humans; because there is no kind of behavior or thought that a dog will judge. 

Dogs Change Us

As most people who have dogs will report – our four-legged buddies go a long way toward making us feel better. They also alter the way we interact with the environment, and make us better people overall. For example, many people have found that dogs have aided them in overcoming panic and daily anxiety. Just think about it – after a very long day of work, you’re bound to be annoyed; there could be dozens of events that could cause you anxiety and panic in just a single day. So, you open your doors in the evening with a sour mood and a negative temper. In that situation, it’s quite easy to take it out on someone, and snap at a family member or friend. But before any of that can happen, your dog rushes to greet you, with its tail happily wagging! You start petting it, show it some love and attention; you get a couple of licks, and voila! Instantly, you’re more positive, and less inclined to pick a fight with someone else. Indeed, dogs go a long way towards helping us get rid of our negative energy without being needlessly annoying to others.

how-dogs-can-help-with-depression

Dogs Distract

In many ways, dogs are like interesting books and movies. Playing with them allows us to move away from our own lives, with all of the problems and burdens. Instead, we transcend into a completely different reality; one where there’s nothing but affection, water, food, and occasional animal poop in places where it’s not supposed to be. Indeed, many people who are dog owners regard playing with their pets as something of a meditation.

Dogs Mean More Touching

There is no denying that touching can be hugely beneficial. For example, studies show that an hourly massage every day does wonders for decreasing the levels of stress hormone production. In fact, it can also help boost your immune system, as it means the production of more blood cells. When we hug someone, our body becomes flooded with oxytocin – a stress-reducing hormone. 

This hormone also goes a long way toward reducing heart rates and pressure. The same goes for holding hands, according to a study conducted by the University of Virginia. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that we have a positive response to petting dogs, even in a biological sense. When you play with a dog, you get lower blood pressure, as well as a more regular heart rate; your dopamine and serotonin levels will also be boosted. Indeed, petting your dog on a regular basis has all kinds of positive consequences, including the reduction of depression and hair loss.

Dogs Increase Responsibility

At the end of the day, as fun as having a dog is; it’s also a huge responsibility. And while that may not sound like a benefit of having a dog; in the case of depressed individuals, it actually is. Most research on the subject shows that having some responsibility in your life is great for your mental health. First of all, responsibility is an indicator of rising self-esteem, as you’ll be doing a task that you’re personally in charge of. And when you succeed in such a task – in this case, keeping your pet alive and happy – you become happier yourself.

After all, it not only shows that you’re capable of taking care of another living being; but you also get a sense of purpose from it yourself. Soon enough, you’ll start doing other important chores and tasks as well; bringing some much-needed structure to your life, and lifting yourself out of depression.

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