Depression can take a toll on us.

Depression prompts feelings of loneliness; people need healthy coping mechanisms to go through the rough times and with relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, breathing techniques like circular breathing one can get better. Another solution for depression may surprise you…. simply caring for a pet.

Comfort, companionship, and love words best used to describe the feelings a pet invokes. A companion animal just might be the help you need to break the cycle of negative thoughts.

“A pet can remind you that you’re not alone,” says Desiree Wiercyski, a life coach in Fort Wayne, IN. “Pets offer unconditional love, which can be extraordinarily soothing when feeling isolated.”

Clinical psychologist Perpetua Neo, Ph.D., agrees. “Animals pick up on when their owners are distressed,” she further added, “when they sense you’re not feeling well, they offer comfort.”

Pets can help treat depression by doing the following:

Pets offer a comforting presence.

An interesting study indicated that merely watching fish lowers blood pressure and muscle tension in people about to undergo oral surgery. That is why many dentists have aquariums in their clinic! Remember Darla from Disney Pixar’s “Finding Nemo”? What would have been her behavior if there was no fish tank? Guess, we will not ever get to see that.

Other research shows that pet owners have significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate. This was monitored both before and during the performance of stressful mental tasks like performing a family intervention or supervising kids’ homework.

Individuals recovering from heart attacks recover more speedily and survive longer when they have a pet at home. It seems as though the mere presence of pets has an amazing effect.

Pets offer unconditional love and acceptance.

Pets are – without a shred of a doubt – free from opinions, critiques, and verdicts. They don’t judge, they give unconditional affection.  In John Hopkins Depression & Anxiety Bulletin, Karen Swartz, M.D. mentions a recent study conducted on nursing home residents in St. Louis. It was found that the residents felt less lonely with some alone time with a dog in comparison to a visit by both a dog and other residents.

The study was conducted on 37 nursing home residents who had scored high on the loneliness scale and were interested in receiving weekly half-hour visits from dogs. Half of the residents received alone time with the canines. The remaining half of the residents shared time with the dog with other nursing home residents. Both groups stated they felt less lonely after the visits, but the decrease in loneliness was much more significant among the residents that had the dogs all to themselves. Without a doubt, we can say, at times we prefer our four-legged friends to our mouthy pals because we can reveal our innermost thoughts without any fear of being judged.

Pets can distract.

Pets are like riveting movies and books. They take us out of our heads and into another reality – one that only involves food, water, affection, and maybe an animal butt – for as long as we can allow. Some people find a distraction to be the only effective therapy when they have hit a point where there is no getting their head back. It’s tough to ruminate about how awful one feels and will feel forever when their dog is breathing in their face. These loyal creatures know how to get your attention and once your focus is directed towards them they’ll make sure the spotlight is shining on them.

Pets promote touch.

Touch has a healing power which is undisputed. Research indicates a 45-minute massage can decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol and optimize your immune system by building white blood cells. Hugging floods our bodies with oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress, and lowers blood pressure and heart rates. And, according to a University of Virginia study, holding hands can reduce the stress-related activity in the hypothalamus region of the brain, part of our emotional centre.

The touch can actually stop certain regions of the brain from responding to threat clues. It’s not surprising, then, that stroking a dog or cat can lower blood pressure and heart rate and boost levels of serotonin and dopamine. The aforementioned researches highlight the significance of touch.

Pets make us responsible.

Keeping pets bring with it greater responsibilities, and responsibilities according to research on depression promotes mental health and well-being. Positive psychologists affirm that by taking ownership of a task, applying our skills, knowledge, and experience to it we inadvertently build up our self-esteem.

When we succeed in caretaking i.e., the pet is alive and well the next day we reinforce ourselves with the realization that we are capable enough of caring for another creature as well as ourselves. That is why chores are very imperative in guiding the youth towards the path of self-sufficiency and independence.

Taking care of a pet brings structure to our day it is a responsibility which demands attention and work. Sleeping until noon is no longer an option owner of pets needs to give them their time and attention. Even staying out all night needs some preparation and forethought.

Animals help lower blood pressure.

With all the stress faced in today’s time, it is highly probable that depression and blood pressure might afflict you. With pills in drug stores and pharmacy’s another safer and healthier option has been found, it has been scientifically proven animals lower blood pressure. Research shows that dog owners have significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate both before and while performing stressful mental tasks — like, say, performing a family intervention or supervising kids’ homework. Blood pressure also drops when people pet dogs, especially if it’s a dog they know and love.

Dog petting can also bring improvement to a person’s immune system and ease the pain. It seems as though a dog’s mere presence is beneficial. In an experiment, participants were divided into groups of three by the researchers. One group had a pet near them, the second group were asked to think about a pet, and for the third group, pets were not involved at all. These participants were given a stressful to perform any changes in their blood pressure were noted. Group one and two had prominently lower blood pressures.

The takeaway, just the presence or the mere thoughts of pets lowers the stress level of an individual.  

By Guest Contributor Hassan Khan