The Calming Power of Pets

One adorable “Emotional Therapy” dog

Anybody who owns a pet, especially a dog or cat, knows this — they brighten our lives. Who can ignore a warm curling, purring cat on the lap or the smiling wag of a dog at your door?

Science has started backing this up. Owning a pet can actually help fight depression. And it all goes back to our little happy hormone, Serotonin.

“Stroking a dog or cat can lower blood pressure and heart rate and boost levels of serotonin and dopamine,” declares an article on this very subject on Psychcentral.com.

Caring for a pet can help our mood and stave off depression in several ways:

Pets offer a soothing presence by helping lower blood pressure as mentioned.

They offer unconditional love and acceptance. For example assisted living and nursing home residents have shown to be less lonely when exposed to quiet time with a dog.

Pets, dogs and cats especially, alter our own behaviors as we respond to their licks and affection. Our breathing, speech and minds slow down during these interactions.

Pets do a great job of distracting us – even more than social media, movies and books – by taking us out of our head.

Taking good care of a pet makes us responsible. Responsibility to another promotes mental health by building self-esteem and giving us purpose.

At the same time, the caring of a pet, dogs especially, opens up increased opportunities for exercise, outdoor play, and socialization – all positive health factors in many ways.

A friend and student of mine in her mid-20s was having depressed feelings and lack of direction. Her life wasn’t leading to even the most realistic goals she had set for herself. She was at the time feeling unloved and not surrounded by supportive family. She seriously began to feel that life wasn’t worth living.

Out of the blue, an older cousin gave her a puppy from her dog’s litter. It was probably an accident pregnancy, as the puppy was an unusual but adorable mix — rat terrier and dachshund. The dog turned out to be a most beautiful accident for my young friend. She began caring for the puppy, buying her all the right food, small toys, even cute sweaters. She shampooed her and took her to the vet for check ups and shots. She made a cozy crate for her pup to sleep while away at work. They always played and walked.

She called the puppy her “Emotional Therapy Dog” and she got back her self-esteem and, with it, the sparkling, fun-loving personality she was known for.

Not everyone can or wants to own a dog or cat. They take time, especially dogs, and are best for certain periods in our lives. Many rental apartments and homes sadly do not even allow pets or charge high deposits for them.

But volunteering at a shelter one day a week can give mood boosts, too. Shelter pets also need touching, loving and exercise – and you can brighten your day together. Or offer to walk a neighbor or friend’s dog from time to time. Even better, start walking with that friend and their dog. You will all get a boost from the emotional power of pets.

#dogs #cats #emotional therapy #depression #health #shelter #Petsmart

Published by dcmori

I am a wife, mother of one grown son, writer, and literacy volunteer living in the Kansas City area. Ever trying to help other people and live life to its fullest.

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