Super Pets – How your pet can help rescue you from depression

I didn’t have pets growing up, so I never understood the bond you could have with an animal. The closest thing I had ever had to a pet was the mealworm I brought home as third grade science homework to learn about metamorphosis. My folks adopted two cats, sisters, just before I moved out. So I guess technically they were my first pets, but it wasn’t until Ewok that I really got it. This post is about how Ewok has helped me get through some of the rough patches.

1. Interaction.

Sandpaper kisses from Ewok

It doesn’t really matter what kind of pet you have for this one. As long as you can pat them, play with them or watch them. They can provide a distraction, getting you thinking about something other than the big black hole you are in. Research has shown that spending just 20 minutes with your pet can lower cortisol, the stress hormone, levels and elevate serotonin. You can talk to them too. They may not respond, but they can listen and it sure beats talking to yourself. So let it all out, they’ll stay by your side.

2. Purring.
Obviously this is just for the lucky people who have cats. I love listening to Ewok purring. Cats purr at a frequency of 25Hz, the same frequency that is used to help heal wounds faster in humans (reference). The rhythmic sound Ewok makes often helps me sleep. When I’m tossing and turning or my mind is racing, I put her beside my pillow and focus on the sound she is making. This usually helps me drift off. I’m assuming her purring means she is content which means I am doing something right. This gives me a peaceful feeling, allowing me to sleep. How do I get her to stay? I’m lucky she just likes to sleep with me every night. Unfortunately her favourite spot to sleep is on my face. So if I want her to stay, I have to wait until she is sleepy and then I can position her like putty.

3. Exercise.
This makes more sense if you have a dog. Obviously, you have to walk the dog. Ewok is unique, but I don’t take her for a walk. She’s an indoor cat. Ewok and I do yoga together. Yes, you read that last sentence right. Yoga. Every time I do a workout video, I get out my yoga mat and I have to get Ewok’s mat out for her too. If I don’t workout often enough, she starts to remind me to get to it.

Kitty yoga time on her very own mat

Let me explain. I do workout videos at home for which I use a yoga mat. I would start my workout and Ewok would be there……batting my ponytail as I did sit-ups, climbing under me as I did push-ups and weaving in and out of my legs as I did squats. Not to mention scratching my mat to pieces. She was driving me nuts and making it impossible to workout at home. One day I got fed up with her antics and her scratching, so I got out another mat, only half hoping she’d stay on the old one and leave me alone. To my surprise, she did! She loves that ridiculous hot pink mat! Without me in the way she was free to scratch and roll and contort herself all over it. So now we workout together. Me on my mat, Ewok on hers. If I haven’t worked out in a while she’ll head over to where I keep the mats and start scratching her pink one. Hey Mum, workout time!

4. Curbing the loneliness.

Ewok watching for me to come home

Spending time with Ewok makes me feel better. Petting her, playing with her or listening to her purr gives me something else to focus on. Also, she needs me. As much as she’d like to think she was a ferocious little beast that could take care of herself, she can’t. She needs me, her little world revolves around me. It’s nice to be needed. Ewok is going to want me around and love me regardless of my mood, whether or not I got that grant for my research and despite my eating the whole chocolate cake. Pet love is unconditional, that’s a reason to keep going.

5. Creativity.
Your pet may inspire creativity whether it be through art, photography or writing. Maybe you capture a look that you can interpret since you don’t really know what they are thinking. Or perhaps they inject some humor in among the darkness. Currently, I’m starting to get that heavy feeling from being without my medication. I’m not in a smiling mood, but here I am writing a post about Ewok and her ridiculous yoga mat and its already making me feel a little lighter. You don’t have to be some kind of artist for your pet to inspire creativity either. What about homemade treats or toys? Decorations or bedding for a cage? I know it seems insignificant, but anything to distract you from over-thinking and and getting into that negative snowballing effect will help.

Baby Ewok

If you can’t have a pet for some reason, you can still benefit. I’m sure you have friends or relatives with pets that you can visit. If you are open to a little more commitment, you can also volunteer to walk neighbourhood dogs or work at the local animal shelter. For a less committed interaction try a bird feeder in the backyard or even going to the zoo could provide a nice distraction.

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  1. Trackback: P is for Plasticity | Somber Scribbler

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