By: Shaila Anjum
Dogs are typically the service animals that assist with police work or to help combat stress, depression, and anxiety, but really, most animals or pets can help us get through lonely, anxious, or upsetting moments.
Many seniors get pets as companions once their children leave the home and they are left with lots of free time, which can lead to feeling lonely. Seniors report feeling less lonely and a lot happier after getting a pet dog or cat.
It’s difficult to sit in bed all day when you have a dog at your feet asking for walks and treats. Dogs can help you get active and have a sense of responsibility. Going out with your dog can also help socialize with other dog lovers and other pet owners in your community. The bond we share with a pet can make a person feel like they are needed and a crucial part of another life. Dogs help aid in depression and anxiety by reducing blood pressure and getting our mind away from daily stressors.
A study in a workplace consisted of a group that had canines present and another group without the presence of a dog (Weil, 2011). The group with the dog’s present showed a higher level of teamwork and cohesion versus those without dogs. The same team conducted another study also with two groups, one with dogs present and one without. This time they played a game “prisoner’s dilemma” where they had the option of snitching a group member for a crime. Those with canines present were significantly less likely to snitch out group members than those without. These two studies showed the effects animals can have on a person(s) likelihood to be trusting and cohesive with the people around them.
In a family with young children, pets help provides a sense of responsibility and compassion. Animals help strengthen our immune systems when exposing us to several allergens and building our immunity to them. And of course, pets provide us with endless laughs and a common ground that can help develop and strengthen relationships.
Pets help reduce stress, anxiety and depression not just for elderly individuals but also for children and in work environments.
Being alone can be rough so it’s important to try different ways of combating feelings of loneliness. For many, animal companionship has proven to be effective and above all, a great joy! If you are not sure about getting a furry friend just yet, some activities you can try to gain more animal exposure may be to volunteer at an animal shelter as a dog walker or care attendant, or maybe volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center to experience working with a variety of different animals. If you're not able to commit to volunteering, there is a such thing as dog yoga and goat yoga too which has been proven to be a great source of relief from stress and anxiety.
Weil, A. (January 25, 2011). Dogs at work? Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/pets-pet-care/dogs-at-work/