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How 4 legged friends can help manage anxiety and depression

It doesn’t matter what mood I’m in when I come home, because without fail Zoe (my spoodle) is there – excited to greet me at the door. She jumps on me and licks me and no matter how crappy I feel, she always cheers me up. Zoe alters my mood without me even noticing – as soon as I pat her I feel happier, calmer and loved. Research has shown that patting a dog or stroking a cat can lower blood pressure and heart rate and boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, both of which are required to feel good. Increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain also helps treat depression.

Instead of sleeping my mood away, Zoe gets me out of the house for fresh air, exercise and a change of scene at the local dog park. She unknowingly gently pushes me to get more social contact. The combination of fresh air, exercise and social contact are all proven to help boost people’s mood and ease depression symptoms. Whether you intend to, you always end up chatting with someone else at the park and I personally have found some great friends this way. Pets are natural icebreakers, and other pet owners love to talk about their animals.

A furry friend can be just what the doctor ordered, providing a special kind of support that can be hard to describe. Taking care of a pet can help give you a sense of your own value and importance and will remind you that you are capable – that you can do more than you might think. Caring for a dog and taking on that responsibility means you are caring for another living being even if it has four paws instead of two legs! Because no matter how depressed you feel, your dog still needs walking and feeding!

Although depression can isolate you by making you pull back from your friends and loved ones, if you have a pet, you’re never alone. That can really make a difference. When you’re feeling low and worthless, dogs help break that cycle by providing comforting companionship and a sense of purpose for their owners.

And in spite of depression, dogs can always make you smile and give you a laugh by doing the silly things they do. And who doesn’t need a few extra laughs?

Dogs can provide a powerful grounding, connecting, and healing force in our lives when we are becoming more technology connected and less human connected.

*If you can’t have a dog because you live in an apartment and/or don’t have a fenced yard, other animals could help. Birds can be surprisingly affectionate and significantly lower in cost to care for. While you may not want to snuggle with a fish or a turtle, caring for them could also improve your mood. It creates responsibility and a new focus. Studies have shown that watching fish can lower your pulse and ease muscle tension too -which is why you always see them in dentists offices!

Hope this helps

Suzanne The Lifestylist

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