Pets, Anxiety, and Depression

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 

  4. 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.

  5. 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.