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Have you ever wondered if pets can affect anxiety and depression? The fight against anxiety and depression just got furry. In 2009, a scientific study done at the Azuba University in Japan (later confirmed by a study at the University of Missouri-Columbia) revealed that a chain reaction can occur with simply watching and petting a dog or cat for a short amount of time; hormones like serotonin and oxytocin levels are increased, which can act to combat depression and anxiety disorders.
Now, it’s not hard to imagine that a pet might make their owner happy on some level. The fur-frenzy over cats (as evident by the steady stream of cat memes on the internet) might be a clue of people’s obsessions with the cute and adorable. So why not apply this ‘feel good’ mojo to those who are most in need of a pick-me-up? Therapists have picked up this scent and been on this track for a while now. Innovations in pet therapy include dogs visiting convicts in prison, cats being brought on a recurring basis to nursing homes, and pets being useful in assuaging anxiety in veteran patients with PTSD. At Just Mind, we sometimes bring our therapy dogs to work and our clients are welcome to do the same as we understand their pets are often a big part of their world.
If you suffer from anxiety and depression, and you’re in the market for a new furry family member, consider the following:
- Routine: a pet’s eating & walking schedule and other responsibilities can provide a consistency that may be lacking in your life, and may help you to form a routine of your own.
- Fresh Air: owning a dog (or other outside-going pets) is a push to get some outside time every day, along with some exercise and icebreaking interaction with other Fido-loving people at the park who will want to talk about their dogs.
- Stability: a pet’s love is unconditional and not prone to waver from day to day, and could end up being one of the most fulfilling and joyous long term relationships of your lifetime.
If you are not ready to commit to caring for a pet, fear not. Your nearest no-kill animal shelter is most likely looking for volunteers to walk their dogs or play with their kitties on a daily/weekly/monthly basis – whatever you can fit in your schedule. Or, consider asking to pet-sit a friend’s friendly feline for a week to see if it’s something you might want to do long-term. In the meantime, you can peruse the myriad of fluffy cat memes (the internet is lousy with them) and smile. Just try to steer clear from the ‘Grumpy Cat’ memes.
Although our furry friends can provide several benefits to our mental health, if you think that you need more help in conquering anxiety or depression, you can contact us to make a counseling appointment or read about anxiety counseling or depression counseling on our dedicated pages. Looking for more tips to conquer anxiety and depression? You can read Minimize Anxiety and Depression by Living in the Now and The Simplest Way to Overcome Anxiety and Depression.
More on Oxytocin: