give-us-a-kiss-1246006c2Animals are a great way to combat the struggles experienced by many people suffering from a mental health illness, especially depression. There can be a strong bond between owners and pets that brings joy to our lives. There is a sense of relatedness that can be gained from having a cat or a dog which can then help us to understand other relationships in our lives. We develop love and learn to care for one another.

Don’t get me wrong, having a pet is a big responsibility but it is through these responsibilities that we foster a relationship with the animal. Animals, just like children, become accustomed to routines. They become dependent on them and can often times lose their cool if the routine is broken. Once a routine of care is established and understood, nurturing our pet becomes second nature. In learning to care for our animals we create routines for ourselves. It may start with deciding when the dog will be taken for a walk, but then we have to fit in grocery shopping, picking up the dry cleaning, or getting to the gym based on the time we have left. Having a routine gives us structure, stability, and a sense of control that we often feel gets lost when suffering from a mental health illness.

As we nurture and care for our pet, we simultaneously nurture and care for ourselves. For example, having a dog will get you outside, walking, running or just being active. Exercise, no matter how little, has time and time again been shown to help with depression and other mental illnesses. It can be hard to convince ourselves to get up for a walk simply to make ourselves feel better, but when we have a responsibility to our pets we are more likely to do it. Being outside in the sun soaking up vitamin D is another great thing having a dog forces us to do. Sunlight can help with feelings of sadness as it literally brightens up our day!

While owning a pet is no simple task, the benefits can seriously outweigh the costs. Whether you’re a cat person or a dog person, if you’re struggling with your mental illness finding a pet to love and care for might just help. Imagine the love you feel when arriving home to see your dog waiting patiently at the door, obviously having missed you all day or cuddling up with your cat after a long day of work. Not only do we love and care for our pets, they unconditionally love us as well

Madeline

Madeline Stiers, Mental Health Coach

Hope and Healing Center & Institute