Monday, March 24, 2014

Pet Therapy

This past weekend, we added a new member to our family: a Shelty named Bella. She is 5 months old and quite a little pistol! She loves to play and cuddle and is just so darned sweet! Her brother (a cat named Sunny) and her big sister (a Lab named Shade) are still adjusting.

You know, pet's can be wonderful therapy for depression (as well as for many other mental and physical disorders). Here are some reasons why (adapted from WebMd):

  • Love. Pets give unconditional love with no strings attached. They are always happy to see you no matter how you look; and they are never judgmental.
  • Routine. They force you to engage in some sort of minimal routine which is good for someone struggling to just get out of bed. They get you out of your head and your woes and require you to care for another living being - which feels good.
  • Social Interaction. If you are isolating, they encourage social interaction - at least with them. This can be comforting. Have you ever shared a problem with your dog or cat? They are great listeners!
  • Activity. Dogs in particular are great for this! They get you out of the house to get some physical activity. Taking a walk at least once a day is great therapy for anyone.
  • Touch. The very act of petting your dog or cat, for example, provides tactile stimulation that is soothing.
  • Health. Research has shown time and time again that people who own pets are healthier physically and mentally overall than those who don't.
There is one caveat here. In my opinion, getting a new pet when one is in the throws of major depression may not be such a good idea. New pets require a lot of attention in making the adjustment to a new home - especially puppies and kittens. This may be more than you are capable of giving. Even if you are well, make sure your acquisition of a new pet is well researched and not an impulsive decision. Find a pet that matches your lifestyle and the amount of attention and care you are willing and able to provide.

Overall, pets are wonderful therapists - both for those suffering from mental or physical illness as well as for everyone else!

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