How A Dog Can Help Relieve Anxiety & Depression .
As a society, we are somewhat getting better at talking about mental health, however there is still someway to go until I think it’s more widely acceptable to discuss, without people being fearful to open up or afraid they are going to be judged. There is sadly still a stigma surrounding this topic and we need to continue to fight to loose that stigma and to help more people talk.
I myself suffer from high anxiety and have also been diagnosed with depression and severe stress in the past. It’s a battle I fight daily along with many others out there but I can assure you with the right support and by giving yourself the time and space you need to heal, things DO get better!
Believe it or not, one thing that has seen me improve in leaps and bounds is getting our adorable dog ‘King Louis’ the Shih-Tzu. I have always been the biggest dog-lover and have never underestimated the power they can have on changing one’s outlook on life.
My furry friend arrived a few weeks before my 30th birthday. He was the most wonderful and thoughtful present from my amazing parents and I will never forget that birthday because of him.
We quickly decided on his name ‘King Louis’ (Louis for short at times)-and from that day on, he has been like a little King to me.
I know my family and friends know how much he means to me and how much I love him, but I don’t think they are actually aware that he somewhat ‘saved me’ from certain dark and lonely parts of my days. No matter how awful I felt when I woke up, how sick I felt, how anxious I was for what a new day could possibly bring…Louis didn’t care about any of that. He was a tiny, 12 week old bundle of fur and needed to be taken outside for toilet breaks, needed to be fed, needed times of play and training… My anxiety and the dark cloud hanging over my head would have to wait until I made sure he was happy.
What I didn’t realise at the time was that actually, it was his daily routine and requirements that were not just helping and teaching him, but also helping and teaching me. Having someone to get up for (not including my more than capable, supportive and wonderful husband)!-really made such a positive impact to my days and my thoughts.
I’ve put together a list of the ways in which King Louis and other dogs can help you and loved ones who may be suffering with anxiety or depression, to show just how important they really are and how much of a difference they can make…
Living In The Moment
One thing Louis has taught me which I continue to work on is, to live in the moment. A dog doesn’t think of the past nor the future-they are 100% focused on the here and now. Be that play-time, walk time, dinner time…they are present within that moment. When I am playing with Louis or walking him, grooming him, I too am living in the moment and not thinking of what’s next or my endless to-do list. It’s such a challenging but valuable life skill to learn if you can.
Getting out and exercising
One of my many favourite things to do with Louis is to walk him. Walking as we all know is fantastic for your physical and mental health and the same goes for your pooch. No matter the weather, I look forward to sticking on my headphones and enjoying some of my favourite podcasts and walking with my best friend by my side, enjoying the feel of fresh air on my face and admiring our scenery as we take to the fields not far from our home.
Being There For You With Zero Judgement
Dogs do not judge, do not talk back, do not give their opinion, do not ignore you…they are just 100% genuine and devoted to you as their owner. Okay so they can’t quite talk to us (apart from the odd bark), but just by starting at us with those big puppy-dog eyes, or tilting their head to the side when you say certain words, it makes you feel like they are listening and are there for you in that moment. As long as you give them plenty of kisses and cuddles in return, they could be the best and cheapest therapist you ever had!
Making New Friends And Being Social
Luckily for me I am very grateful to have lots of wonderful family and friends who surround me and are there for me no matter what. Sadly I realise not everyone always has that, but it’s well known within the dog community how friendly and social it can make you being a dog-owner. If you have a dog and bump into someone else who also owns a dog, straight-away you have something in common which you will both love to talk about! Most dog owners are willing to stand there and chat all things dog, while your dogs play with one another. Simple things like meeting at a park or beach, can really help you start to build up a network of friends and if you need it, help to improve your confidence when meeting and talking to new people.
My final conclusion to this post is that it’s true when people say it’s an unconditional love between a dog and their owner…
They really are a person’s best friend.