Ways Pets Seem to Help People With Depression
It’s astonishing just how much pets seem to pick up on our emotions. This is especially true when it comes to dogs. Dogs tend to more times than not, show that they are capable of expressing empathy for their humans when they sense that they are showing signs of sadness. It’s amazing how they will show signs of their empathy and love by reacting to a person’s emotions by snuggling with them, trying to distract them, or kissing their tears away. This could be one of the reasons why many pets seem to help those with depression.
Here are just a few ways that it seems pets offer their help for those suffering from depression.
They Offer a Presence That’s Soothing
It’s not just dogs that can help people and soothe them. Some studies have shown that if a person just sits down and watches fish swimming in an aquarium can actually lower their blood pressure and ease their muscle tension. This is especially true for those who are about to undergo dental surgery. That could be one of the reasons why a lot of dentist offices tend to have aquariums in their waiting rooms.
Research has also shown that those who own a pet, especially dogs and cats, tend to have much lower blood pressure and heart rates, especially if they are facing stressful issues. This, in turn, can help those who are fighting depression can feel a sense of relief when they interact with their pets.
It has also been noted that those who have suffered from a heart attack, which sometimes can lead to depression, tend to recover quicker and often will survive longer when they have a pet in their home. It’s as if just their presence alone can be beneficial.
Pets Offer Acceptance and Unconditional Love
The acceptance and unconditional love that pets offer, especially dogs and cats, is something that all people are looking for. This is especially true for those who might be suffering from depression. Pets don’t offer their opinions, aren’t judgmental, and don’t offer up verdicts against their owners. No matter who their owner is, or what they’ve done, it doesn’t matter to them. When a person seems to be in need, they are more than willing to offer up their unconditional love and acceptance at a moments notice.
Loneliness can be a key factor for depression in many people. This is particularly true for those who reside in nursing homes. A study done by Johns Hopkins showed that residents in nursing homes felt a lot less lonely and/or depressed whenever they spent quiet time with dogs alone than they did with a visit with other residents.
The John Hopkins research studied 37 different nursing home residents scoring high in loneliness and depression. They allowed half of them to spend thirty minutes with dogs alone and the other half spent shared time with the dogs with others in the nursing home. Each group all agreed that they felt much less lonely and depression after their visits. However, the depression and loneliness decreased much more for those who were allowed to spend private time with the dogs. Many believe this is because while alone with a dog, people may feel free to divulge their innermost feelings and thoughts and without being judged.
Pets Tend to Alter Human Behavior
Many people find that if they have a pet in their home, they tend to be able to take their minds off the issues of the day. It seems they have the ability to calm us down when things don’t seem to be going our way. Taking time out to pay attention to pets and let them offer their love and attention at the same time can help to slow breathing, slow down speech, and one’s mind. This, in turn, can help people to lower their feelings of depression. Just being greeted at the door when a person comes home from a hard day at work, can immediately give a person a feeling of relief.
Pets are a Distraction
Often times, people need a distraction from their depression and pets are often the perfect solution to that. Pets can be like a riveting movie or book. They have the ability to take you out of your head and step into a different reality. It’s a reality that can involve water, food, playtime, and of course their loving attention. It’s rather difficult to continue to feel totally awful forever when you have a loving dog kissing your face.
There seems to be an almost magical healing power when it comes to touch. For instance, research has shown that having a massage can lower the levels of stress hormones in the body and can even optimize the immune system. Hugging, for example, can flood the body with oxytocin which is a hormone that will reduce stress and lower the heart rate and blood pressure at the same time. Even just holding hands with another person can lower stress and aid in depression.
Pets, especially dogs, are animals that encourage touching, and it’s not very surprising to realize that just by stroking a dog or a cat will lower blood pressure and even boost the levels of dopamine and serotonin all of which can help to calm and soothe a person who might be in distress.
Pets Can Make You More Responsible
Being responsible is something that promotes good mental health, especially when it comes to depression. By being more responsible quite often it helps to build self-esteem. For those suffering from depression often also suffer from low self-esteem. By having a pet, means more responsibility. Pets need to be fed, watered, groomed and loved so that they survive. When one is successful at doing that it is a positive accomplishment. It can help make a person, especially one who has depression feel like they are capable of caring not only for this loving creature but of themselves as well.
Another important thing that caring for a pet brings is structure to the day. Often those who suffer from depression find it difficult to create structure in their lives which in turn can cause more problems in their lives. By living with a pet that depends on them to survive, it gives them the structure they need and a feeling of self-worth.