By the year 2018, some 40 million Americans were affected by depression. Today, depression continues to be a widespread issue around the world. It is a silent and often unnoticed illness.
There are several kinds of therapy available for people with depression. A method that proves itself as an effective counter to depression time and time again is a relationship with a dog.
Of course, if you’re already a pet owner, you can probably see how dogs help with depression. If not, owning a dog, or dog-sitting could be just what you need to help you through the storm.
Depression can go unnoticed if you’re not aware of your mental and emotional state. There are short depressive periods, and there are longer depressive episodes that can last years. Both can be extremely difficult to deal with.
When talking about mental health, identifying symptoms can be tricky.
For either case, you can seek treatment to help you alleviate your symptoms.
Symptoms of Depression:
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in what you used to enjoy
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Digestive problems
These are common symptoms you should monitor if you begin to experience them over a long period. Depression can be incredibly challenging to deal with. Thankfully, there are many ways that you can treat depression, and ways dogs can help with depression.
Treatment for Depression
Though there is an extensive list of depressive symptoms, there are also many treatments for depression that you can use to help you. Solutions include psychotherapy and medication, but there are also ways to relieve depression outside of these methods.
Staying active and doing exercise are great ways to improve your mental health. Those with depression also benefit from socializing and having a companionship.
Also, a person with depression benefits from invitations to go out on walks or social events. Support and encouragement from other people are ways to uplift people.
How Dogs Help You With Depression
The great news is, there are many ways pets help ease depression.
From companionship to developing a daily routine, owning a dog can offer serious help for someone combating depression, simply because what caring for a pet will entail.
Your hound will help you in many ways, by lifting your mood and improving your mental health. Your dog is someone who will always be happy to see you, who will want to keep you company and remind you that you are not alone. There are many dog shelters, adoption agencies and reputable breeders in the US. There are companies that can even bring a puppy or rescue dog to your door.
Loneliness can be a catalyst for depression. Dogs help keep the loneliness at bay. Your pet is a special friend who makes you laugh, who gets you outside and exercising, and who wants to give you love.
There are so many mental and emotional benefits to having a dog. They are an open book. Completely sincere in their unequivocal adoration of you, regardless of absolutely everything you say or do.
Owning a dog comes with a lot of responsibility.
That responsibility may seem daunting at first. Dog ownership is something that requires a lot of commitment, but the benefits are well worth it.
Dog owners have a sense of pride when raising and caring for a dog. Pets of all kinds are considered members of the family. This kind of bond is one of the reasons so many families have pets.
Caring for a dog will give you a sense of self-worth because of the responsibility it takes to care for them properly. At the end of the day, you’ll feel happy you got the chance to care for your pet and that they remain happy and healthy.
This sense of self-worth will give you purpose and hope, despite the work it will take. This is great for countering your depression symptoms. Responsibility and purpose are strong foundations for improved mental and emotional health.
A 2016 survey done by the Human Bond Research Institute reports that 71% of pet owners say owning a pet has improved their mental health. A dog is called a man’s best friend for a reason.
Your dog is always going to be happy to see you and will love having your attention.
If you live alone and are dealing with depression, you can count on your dog to be happy to see you and spend time with you. Dogs are great for breaking a pattern of individuality and lonesomeness.
That companionship boosts the oxytocin and dopamine in your brain, creating good feelings. In this way, dogs make it easier for you to be happy and reduce stress. Oxytocin is known as the ‘love hormone’, and it plays a role in human behaviors such as recognition, trust, love and bonding.
A hound will reward their owner with unconditional love, and this is how dogs help with depression.
Part of keeping a dog is taking the best care of them. Spending time with them, and making them feel loved and appreciated. Over time, the bond you build with your hound will become unbreakable.
Dogs are protective, caring, and a joy to have around. These traits help bring security and peace of mind to anyone feeling anxiety or depression.
Studies show that keeping a routine is a great way to help relieve depressive symptoms. Regularity reduces stress and anxiety because days are more predictable and, therefore, more manageable.
Sleeping at the same time every night and waking up at set times are good ways to begin anchoring a routine. This way, you’ll experience a steadier level of energy throughout the day, and your dog will get to know your habits too.
Dogs love routines. They will begin to expect them daily. This means they will get used to eating, exercising, and relieving themselves at a specific times. Keeping a routine reduces stress for dogs, too.
Structuring your time helps you to get more done and organizes time for you to rest too. Intentionally making a plan will also give you a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
Building a Routine For You and Your Dog
To build a routine, focus on your schedule first.
Decide what time you will eat and sleep, and then set the times you want to do other things too. From here, you can begin to see where in your schedule you can make time to feed your dog, take them out on a walk, let them go outside, or exercise.
Once you have those time slots figured out, it’s a lot easier to set it into place. Given some time, your dog will learn this schedule too. Their energy and needs will adjust to it, so you both have a synced and mutually beneficial agenda.
Routines will help your dog behave, as they will know what to expect at different times during the day. You’ll benefit, too, as you find your dog will become more eager to play or go outside when they recognize the time is coming for one of those activities.
The anticipation they have for activities is another way they will keep you from losing your routine. As the owner, your dog will depend on you to walk or exercise with them. Even if you don’t feel like going out at all, your dog can encourage you to get the activity you need.
Physical activity is a proven method to help ease depression. And dogs are fantastic workout partners. Many breeds are very energetic and active — they want to get up and let out energy sometime during the day.
Dogs love to walk, run, and fetch. These are all activities that you can do together with your pet. The outdoor exercise puts you out in the sun, which also has beneficial effects for depression.
Working out is incredibly uplifting for mental and emotional health. Your dog will love playing fetch with you and learning new tricks. This exercise time is an excellent opportunity for you to deepen the bond you have with your pet.
If you can, purchase some fun toys your dog will love to play with. You can use toys to play fetch or play tug. You can hide toys in a dog park and play hide-and-seek. There are endless amounts of games you and your dog can go outside and play.
Toys are also great for keeping your dog busy in idle times. Chewing on toys while resting allows dogs to relieve stress too. Soon, you’ll notice which toys your animal enjoys the most, and you can use it as a reward during exercise time.
When you make an exercise program with your dog, you’ll also want to pick games that you enjoy playing. Exercise can be difficult to initiate if you have depression.
If you enjoy the activities you play with your dog, it’s much easier to think of exercise as a time to relax rather than a time of hassle or chore. Get creative and design a workout you and your dog will want to do every day.
A study done by Harvard University found that deep, meaningful relationships are among the most significant parts of a happy life. Social interactions, especially those which are face-to-face, help people with depression.
When you own a dog, you’ll find yourself walking them around your area and possibly looking for local dog parks in your area for larger exercise spaces.
On your way to the park or on your walks, you will likely run into other dog owners.
These are great opportunities for social interactions. Because you both have dogs, there is an immediate common ground for conversation. Soon, you may even become friends with the other local dog owners in your area.
In this way, dogs help you become more socialized. Dogs attract people. If you walk your dog, people may come up to you and ask you if they may pet them. They may ask you what their name is or what breed they are.
Face-to-face human interactions will help you with your depressive symptoms. Your dog can help you meet more people.
Take advantage of these opportunities. Making friends is a sure way to help lift your spirits.
Don’t go through depression alone. As difficult as it can be, you can give yourself the best chance to recover from depression by giving to yourself. If you are considering adopting a dog, read my comprehensive guide. It will help you every step of the way.
Dogs are great friends to have when times are tough emotionally or mentally. Their calming presence, friendship, and loyalty help you weather the storm. The routines they help you set and the emotional boost they give you are just a few ways a hound could be all the medicine you need to help you with depression.