Dogs are more than friends to people, they’re another member of the family. When we’re suffering from depression, we often look to our family for help. Dogs are fantastic at relieving our depressive symptoms just when we need it the most, and here are 5 great ways that they do it:
Dogs make us responsible
When we’re suffering from depression, it can be far too easy to slip further and further away from the real world. Caring for a dog requires a lot of responsibility, and that responsibility can act as a reality anchor. Regardless of what our mood or energy levels are, a dog still needs to be fed, walked, and given love and attention. Failure to do so would be hurting and neglecting a creature that we care a lot about. Having a dog gives us the drive to build our lives around their routine, which can in turn give us a schedule of activities, something which research suggests is crucial.
Dogs offer never-ending support
One of the greatest things about a dog is the unconditional love and happiness that it shows you every day. No matter what has happened that day or how tough it’s been, your dog will always act as if seeing you is the world’s greatest gift. This is vital as many depressive individuals can often feel unloved and unappreciated – two feelings that are quite a bit rarer if you have a dog in your life! The knowledge that they’ll always be there for you, no matter what, can make you feel like you’ll always have a net of support.
Dogs facilitate and require physical contact
Physical contact can be incredibly important to combat the isolation that a person with depression faces. Science suggests that physical contact with an animal can boost levels of oxytocin, as well as reducing stress levels in the brain. Most dogs are extremely friendly and show their affection in a variety of ways – by licking your face, by patting you with their paw, by cuddling, and by getting you to pet them. Not only does this provide a neurological and mood boost, but it also acts as a stepping stone for physical contact with other people, something that’s also very beneficial.
Dogs can instantly change our mood
One of the fastest ways to put a smile on someone’s face is to put them in the same room as a dog. They’re naturally very happy and enthusiastic creatures, and these feelings are infectious. When a person with depression is stuck in a rut, they’re often desperate for an instantaneous boost in mood, something which a dog provides with ease. The way they smile, show affection, and play instantly warms your heart, distracting you from oppressive thoughts and feelings.
Dogs are fantastic confidants
It’s imperative that people suffering from depression speak to a loved one about about their mental anguish and thoughts. In many ways, dogs are perfect for pouring our hearts out to. They obviously won’t judge anything you say and are incredibly attentive when they’re listening to us. You can talk to a dog for hours and hours and they’ll never grow tired of it. In fact, they’ll probably be thankful. In addition, if they sense that you’re sad or see you crying, they’ll provide a physical sign of affection to try to calm you and make you feel better!
Marcus has a degree in psychology, a masters degree in health psychology and has worked within the NHS as well as private organisations. Marcus started psysci a psychology and science blog in order to disseminate research into bitesize, meaningful and helpful resources that are interesting and insightful and often help people on the right track to improving their lives.