According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 17 million adults in the US have experienced a major depressive episode. People who struggle with this sort of depression are inclined towards poor sleeping habits, periods of inactivity, and withdrawal from social engagement. These symptoms may last for a couple of weeks or more and may fuel further negative habits. But studies have shown that having a pet can be an excellent way to fight off depression; here’s why getting one can inject positivity into your life.
You get out more often
Not going outdoors all day means you aren’t exposed the sunlight, which could potentially stabilize your circadian rhythms; this leads to further sleep disruption, a lack of physical exercise, and increasing isolation with already negative thoughts. Many pets need exercise and are visibly thrilled to go outside; thus, bringing a pet into your life can combat this downward spiral with a source of positivity. For instance, if the only activity you’ve had in recent months is meeting your divorce attorney, go for a walk in Colorado Springs with your dog, and strike up some friendly conversation with the super pet-friendly locals. Outdoor activity, positive vibes, and increased social interactions? Check, check, check, thanks to your pet.
You’ll always have company
Adults who live alone are at a higher risk for common mental disorders, including depression. Loneliness can be further amplified by the stress and social isolation simultaneously experienced by many people who live in the big city, and the pervasive sense of status pressure driven by social media can also exert a strong negative influence. Although a causal link hasn’t been established yet – does loneliness cause depression, or do people with depression seek to live alone? – living alone definitely makes you more vulnerable to negativity.
Getting a pet introduces another living presence into your home. In times when you might otherwise have nothing else to cheer you up or take your mind off negative thoughts, your pet will provide you with unconditional love and acceptance. Pets don’t judge you, and while any attempt at conversation will be rather one-way, they will be a constant source of companionship and support each day.
You’ll have a responsibility
When you’re going through a difficult time emotionally, sometimes the last thing you need is another burden, but taking on responsibility can help a depressed person regain their confidence and a sense of purpose. What’s vital is that the new responsibility shouldn’t be overwhelming, and in many ways taking care of a pet fits the bill perfectly. After all, regular feeding, cleaning, and disciplining your pet are simply patterns that parallel your behavior and good habits.
Having another living creature to care for, and whose well-being depends on you, can be precisely the sort of push you need to move forward and take positive steps. Seeing that what you’re doing is successful, and making your pet happy will give you increased self-worth and confidence in your ability to care for yourself and ultimately get better.
If you’re still not sure that you can handle becoming a first-time pet owner, try to find ways that let you spend more time with pets, hanging around with dogs at a local pet shelter through volunteer work, for example. You’ll be able to experience in small doses the positive benefits of having a pet in your life. And when you’re ready, bring a pet home, and you can beat the downward spiral of depression together.