When I was in college, the local animal shelter brought dogs to campus during finals week. The lawn of the student union would be dedicated to students playing with dogs- a welcome break from studying! Not only was it a good time to get in some belly scratches and head rubs, there is solid science to back it up.
If you're a pet parent, you know that coming home to a warm puppy kiss at the end of a long day is a great feeling. It's especially good if you are someone who happens to live alone- social isolation is a huge factor in developing depression. Of course animals aren't a complete replacement for human connection- but they do bring their own set of benefits to the table.
5 Therapeutic Benefits of Having a Pet
Having a pet can be like having a roommate or friend. Feelings of isolation can easily go along with living alone- something a lot of people deal with, especially right out of college. Simply having Fido by your side while you go about your daily routine is comforting, and reduces feelings of loneliness.
I know many people who gravitate to the pet of the house when visiting someone or attending a party. A pet can serve as a prop to help you feel more comfortable if you're nervous about a new situation. For instance, you might feel more socially at ease talking to a new person if you've got feline friend to pet the whole time.
It's very clear from the research that exercise has both physical and mental benefits- I recommend that everyone incorporate some physical activity into their daily routine. But sometimes it can be hard to get moving. Here's where having a pet comes in handy- Clifford isn't going to walk himself! Taking your dog on a spin around the block is good for both of you.
If you struggle with anxiety or perfectionism in particular, chances are you spend a lot of time in your head- oftentimes spinning your wheels around the same issue- this can get really frustrating after awhile! An extremely effective way to get outside of your own head is to focus on something external- cue the pets! Putting your attention on caring for your pet (training, feeding, walking) gives you a great opportunity to take a step back from any unhelpful or toxic thoughts.
You get a sense of purpose out of caring for your pet. One effect of depression is feeling a lack of purpose- feeling like there is no point to life, no reason to get out of bed in the morning. Having a pet with needs of it's own can provide some motivation to get up and get your day started.