There is nothing like coming home to our pets when we have had a bad day. No matter how grumpy we are, there is always that wagging tail or soft purr waiting on the other side of the door. There is an unmatched element of comfort that an animal offers.
Very often, however, it goes beyond just grumpiness. We lose a loved one, get retrenched, go through a divorce, or simply hit a bump in the road and find that we are depressed and need help. Fortunately, part of the solution may already live with you.
Why having a pet is therapy
The presence of a pet can help you work through your problems, as they have certain qualities that are very therapeutic:
- Consistency Your dog won’t get mad at you or tell you that you are being oversensitive. You know that when
you reach out for comfort your dog will be there. Psychologist Teri Wright says that pets and service animals give uncomplicated love. “With a pet, you can just feel. You don’t have to worry about hurting your pet’s feelings or getting advice you don’t want.”
- Companionship Depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness or grief can isolate you and make you withdraw from loved ones. If you have a pet, you are never alone. Having a pet may also help get you a bit more social – perhaps simply by chatting to the lady behind the counter when buying dog food, or while walking your dog. We all love to talk about our animals!
- Self-esteem boost Caring for and loving another living being and receiving love back improves how we feel about ourselves. Positive psychologists say that we build our self-esteem by taking ownership of a task. When we succeed (for example, we manage to get out of the house to go for a walk with our dog), we reinforce the idea that we are more capable than we thought.
- Responsibility When you adopt a pet, even if you have hit rock bottom, you have the responsibility to take care of his needs. Although taking care of yourself might seem hard enough, stepping up to take care of another being may be just the lifeline you need
- Managing feelings and thoughts Dogs may not understand our conversations, but they do connect with energy, emotional state, tone, and body language. Dogs behave best when they are around positive, calm and assertive energy. If you are stressed, frustrated or upset, your dog will pick up on this and may act out – by taking control and pulling on the lead, for example. This may help you manage your emotions and stress levels, which can overflow into other areas of your life.
- Animals alter our behaviour You might storm home and want to bash down the door and just scream at someone after a really rough day at work. But as you get through the front gate your happy-go-lucky pooch bounds over to you. You get licked and welcomed and abracadabra – your mood shifts and your behaviour changes. Animals bring a sense of calm, and we find that our breath and minds slow down when we’re around them.
- Good old sense of humour There is hardly a day when your dog or cat won’t do something silly. You may find yourself laughing out loud despite being depressed. Who can take life seriously when there is a big, wagging butt in your face?
Read the full article in the October 2016 issue of Animaltalk.