The life of an average human being today is tremendously more comfortable, safe, and pleasant than it was, let’s say, a couple of hundred years ago.
This, however, doesn’t seem to make us happy, as depression, burnout, and a plethora of other unpleasant mental conditions are more rampant than ever before.
When I was suffering from depression (I still do but to a considerably lesser degree now), I could bet nobody among my friends and relatives had any idea what I was going through. And I couldn’t tell them; they wouldn’t have understood me, for most people have a very vague understanding of what depression is.
The only thing that allowed me to slowly and gradually return to a mostly healthy life was a cat I adopted almost accidentally, on a whim, in one of my rare fits of activity when I tried hectically to do something about the way things were.
You’ve probably heard something about how animals can help those suffering from depression and other mental issues. Now I can say for sure that it is not an exaggeration.
1. They love you.
Sometimes people do too, of course. But only pets can offer you unconditional and uncomplicated love you don’t have to doubt no matter what. Your relationships with your family and loved ones may be (or not be) loving ones but still get toxic after many years of mutually unfulfilled promises, falling outs, and bad decisions. A cat or a dog just loves you without your having to think about everything that makes relationships tense and frayed.
2. They are always there for you.
A pet is still beside you when you feel down. They don’t have their own business to take care of before they can give you their time. They don’t fail to pick up the phone when you need them. Their main purpose in life is to love you and to be loved by you, and they are okay with that. Even if you cannot physically be near them at all times, there are some solutions to keep in touch, for example, with a pet monitor to observe, talk, or even play with them via the internet.
3. They depend on you.
When we are suffering from depression and question our value as human beings, having somebody who needs us and completely depends on us for basic needs of life and survival itself can serve as an incredibly powerful motivation to get up and start doing things.
You may not have the strength to feed yourself, but you can’t ignore a hungry cat or a dog desperate for a walk. Even if you think that taking care of yourself is complicated enough in such a condition, don’t be discouraged—when you have somebody out there for whom you are responsible, you will find the strength to do what is necessary, and that is already a good beginning.
4. They force you to move.
One of the main signs of depression is usually the unwillingness and even inability to do more than the bare minimum of movement. You feel like lying in bed for as much as the world is willing to let you get away with. But this is exactly why you need more physical activity. It works both ways—you want to move around more when you feel okay, but also getting more activity helps you feel better, so you should use every opportunity to get it.
5. They help you stick to the routine.
When we are depressed, we often let our lives disintegrate around ourselves. We don’t do the most basic things to support ourselves, let work pile up, forget to go buy food, sometimes even neglect basic self-hygiene. Animals’ routines may be simple, but they can’t be done away with—you have to comply with them. And when you have these smalls islands of predetermined activity among the murky marsh of depression, it is easier to grow some more activity around them.
6. They are warm.
The need for touch is one of the most basic needs of a human being. It helps us get better, removes stress, and makes us feel safe—that’s why hugging always has such a strong emotional charge about it. A pet can quickly fulfill your need to have a living being besides you; there is something naturally soothing about a purring cat on your lap or a dog nudging you with its nose.
I wouldn’t say that adopting a cat solved my depression problem. However, it certainly was one of the most critical factors in improving my overall situation. Without it, I indeed would have been much worse off than I am now—which is why I strongly believe that all of my fellow sufferers can do themselves a world of good by doing the same thing I did.
Author: Rachel Youens
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis