Sometimes, all we need is a friend

Winter is tough. It's cold and dark and so exhaustingly long. With the short days, longer commutes and constant cold, it can wear people down. Especially those who are already prone to depression. That’s why awareness campaigns like Bell Let’s Talk take place at the end of January.

There are a multitude of ways we can work on our mental health. But for now, we’ll focus on pet therapy.

Pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, is recognized by National Institute of Mental Health as a legitimate way to treat depression. It is used at CAMH and other organizations to help those struggling with the disease. Here are a few ways pets relieve depression:

Two is better than one
Those struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation are sometimes recommended by their doctors to get a pet. With their unconditional love, a pet will show you that you’re not alone.

Keep calm and cuddle on 
Those prone to stress, or even those in a stressful situation, can be calmed down by a pet’s presence. It has been shown that pets can help those overcome some of the most stressful environments. There is also research indicating children with pet dogs have less anxiety growing up. Overall, a lot of research seems to suggest that pet owners have lower blood pressure and heart rates both before and while performing stressful mental tasks.

Up and at 'em 
It is well known that physical activity reduces the risk of depression and anxiety. Dogs specifically seem to be very effective for treating depression because they force their owner to get up and go for walks outside. Not only that, but because dogs are so routine based, they can help a person with structure, which is so important for fighting off depression.  

Animal talk 
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute has suggested that people who have a dog or a cat will be less socially isolated. Animals are great conversation starters, and if you’re taking your dog to the dog park, chances are you'll strike up a conversation with a fellow dog owner! Plus, there are tons of pet owner groups and meetups all over Toronto!