Having a pet is known to benefit a person's health. Just petting and being near a furry friend is shown to lower blood pressure and to allow your brain to release feel-good hormones. The sense of touch you feel when stroking a cat or scratching behind a dog's ears is soothing and stress-relieving. Our pets love us unconditionally, and the affection they show us has an amazing effect on our mental health. Owning a pet has also shown to improve symptoms of depression:
Riley always improves my mood. No matter how awful I am feeling, Riley never fails to make me smile. It really doesn't take much. A tilt of his fuzzy head, a glimpse of his hilarious underbite, the way he tosses his bones into the air with glee - I always have to crack a smile. My dog drags me out of whatever gloomy funk I am in, and, if only for a little while, brings me back into the joyful present.
I can't not smile at this. Look at that tooth!
With Riley, I am never alone. Depression hates company; it waits until your friends or loved ones leave, and then it wraps you up in all its dark loneliness. But when you have a pet, you always have company - you never have to feel lonely. This has been a blessing to me. My husband and I have very different schedules; he often works night shifts, and when I have been home without him for nights on end, I often miss him terribly. Riley helps to fill the void, to keep his spot warm on the other side of the bed. If I get sick, Riley is lying right there with me on the bathroom floor. It's very comforting, to say the least, knowing that.
Riley makes for good conversation. I am not generally a very social person. I tend to keep to myself, and that's not always a good thing. But through blogging about animals, I have learned this: Other dog lovers love to talk about dogs! Dog-related stories or advice have done wonders when breaking the ice with new blogging friends, and I find it very easy to talk about animals with others. Pets can act as a "social lubricant", allowing us to make conversation where we might otherwise not have.
Riley senses when I am not feeling myself. I believe that dogs really do have an excellent way of sensing human emotions. Riley is a daddy's boy through and through, and when Jared and I are both home, there is no question as to whose lap he will choose - I get snubbed every time! However, there are a few exceptions to that rule. Riley has an uncanny knack for climbing over to snuggle with me every time I am upset or sick. During one particularly nasty crying jag, Riley crawled to my side of the couch, plunked himself in my lap, and stayed there for several hours. When I had a rough day at work, he wouldn't leave my side that night. I'm interested to know - does your pet do this, too??
Riley snuggling with his mama (which he never does!) after a cute little dog hurt her feelings. And her face. Also, I promise I don't usually look this...corpse-y.
And it's not only your own pet that can change your mood. Every time I volunteer at a shelter or humane society, I leave the building feeling ten times better than when I entered it. Jared and I did just this the other day, as I needed some distraction from the down-in-the-dumps feeling I had had all week. Snuggling a kitten and receiving some sweet dachshund kisses definitely did the trick! This always does wonders for my mood - just another benefit of volunteering :)
This sweetie pie is Ella, a very snuggly Doxie whose butt wiggles and excited kisses are the ultimate anti-depressant!
Thank you so much for reading! If your pet has helped you through tough times, too, please feel free to leave your story in the comments!