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Guest Post by Kalia
I’ve struggled with depression for as long as I can remember. I think back to when I was 9 year’s old and my grandmother died. I was extremely close to her and that loss was something I had no idea how to deal with. My mother knew exactly what would cheer me up. We got a new kitten! Obviously getting an animal doesn’t replace a human, but the thought behind this was that this pet would become my comforter, my listener, my best friend. If it weren’t for the all the pet’s I’ve had in my life I hate to think of how else I would have dealt with my depression.
I asked my fellow blogger Kalia over at frontseatryder.com to do a guest a guest post on the mental benefits of having a dog. Although she refers to dogs as being great for mental health I’d like to personally note that cats are also great for this, as I am a proud cat (and dog) owner. After reading this I would love to hear about your furbaby(s) so feel free to drop a comment and let us know about your amazing pet(s)!
Hello, my name is Kalia. I am the founder of frontseatryder.com. Front Seat Ryder is a blog designed to inspire, encourage and empower the modern dog mom to improve her mental health with the help of her doggy companion.
I am extremely honored that Obtaining Bliss has invited me to write a guest post for you today. Thank you so much for having me, Kirsten! Today I am so yappy to share some benefits of having an Emotional Support Animal.
That’s not a Service Dog?!
There is a lot of confusion over what a “Service Dog” really is. Dealing with mental health is difficult enough. Having to “defend” my pup and I’s relationship makes it a bit harder. There are a couple different ways a dog can aid you. Emotional Support Animals, Therapy Dogs, and Service Dogs are the most common. Each offers many benefits. They aid those who deal with emotional, as well as physical issues.
If you are debating on getting one or know someone who is, you might consider looking over this article. You’ll want to find the right fit for your needs. Everyone is different. Therapy Dogs are a wonderful option for many people and can help you in a tremendous way. If you are an animal lover, you know that instant unconditional love a dog can give. It starts from the first moment you meet. #Puppy Love! There is an undeniable connection that helps those who need emotional support.
Types of Services
A lot of people get confused on the various types of support animals. There is a difference between a service dog, therapy dog, and ESA animal. I will break them down below to help clear up any confusions or questions.
These type of dogs can stay calm in many different environments. They go with their owner or handler to places where they are needed. Therapy Dogs are usually volunteers to help with emotional needs and are generally used in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. They also play a big part in disaster areas. Therapy Dogs and their handlers work together as a team to enrich the lives of the people they meet. They provide a sort of distraction to those who need it. For example, visiting a child in the hospital who suffers from cancer. A therapy dog can bring that child many smiles, comfort, and hope. Making the day a memorable one.
Service dogs go through rigorous training and have a specific job for their owners. You can teach your service dog to aid in any way you need. They are the eyes of someone who is blind, they can notify their handler if their blood sugar is low, and they can help bring items to you if you are unable. These types of dogs have a lot of training and have a special set of skills to fit the handler’s specific needs.
A Service Dog can help you with simple tasks that you might struggle with doing on your own. It is a great solution to getting help without having to depend on having someone to assist you daily.
ESA (Emotional Support Animals)
Emotional support animals can be a variety of different animals. An ESA does not need any special training, although they must be able to behave in public. ESAs, like the name implies, aid in emotional support. They help those with impairments that are more on the mental end of things. Some reasons (mild to severe) you might need an ESA are:
- Social shyness
- Agoraphobia (fear of leaving home)
Ryder is my ESA. He helps me with my depression and anxiety. I was in a very dark spot when I decided to talk to my doctor about depression. It took me about 15 years to seek help for what I was feeling. My doctor and I sat down and mapped out all my different options. We figured out together what worked best for me.
I am going to share with you some of my top 4 benefits from having an ESA or therapy dog in your life. Now, even if you do not have an ESA dog, these are benefits you can experience with any animal.
If you find these things to be helpful and don’t have a pet, try to make it a goal to seek out time with animals. You could ask a close friend if you can pup sit for them, or take a day to take them to the park. Your friend and the pup will both appreciate the gesture.
4 Benefits From an ESA & Therapy Dog
Reduces Stress Levels
Having a therapy dog around can help reduce stress levels. I’m sure like my boy, your pupper is right by your side as often as possible. An ESA provides you with emotional support for stressful situations. Dogs are known to be a true comfort to humans. Studies have shown a direct correlation between dogs and decreased stress levels.
Your dog knows you. He can read you very well and knows when you are going through something negative. Does your buddy ever come over for cuddles when you are sad? Petting and cuddling pups decrease cortisol, the stress hormone. This aids in lowering your blood pressure in stressful events. Nothing calms you down faster than your sweet little pup needing your attention and love.
Playing with any adorable creatures also increases your oxytocin level. Oxytocin is also known as the “cuddle hormone”. It’s released when you snuggle or bond with others. But it also acts the same for you and your pupper.
There are many reasons people get dogs. Yet, companionship is close to the number one reason. No matter why your pup came into your life, having a dog almost guarantees you one amazing companion. Someone who is always by your side. During times when you do not feel able to do daily activities, your dog is there for encouragement. You have a buddy there, someone who is in your corner.
If you do not have a dog to comfort you, have no fear. You can always hook up with a therapy dog organization. Here is a list of some from the American Kennel Association. See if there is an organization to talk to in your area.
If you have a dog for ESA, it is a great reason to get up and get active. You have to stay active feeding your pet, taking them out to use the restroom, and so on. It gives you a sense of purpose and can help get rid of the negative thoughts on yourself because you’re focusing on caring for your pet.
Walking your dog gets you moving. If I didn’t have Ryder, I would not get as much exercise as I do. Yet it is more than the walking. Playing with your pup throughout the day counts, too. I have to get my tush off the couch to take him potty. All the little activities you do for your pup, add up over time.
It has been shown having a pet, especially a dog is a great way to improve your mental health. When you feel isolated or alone, you will always have your buddy close by to give you the attention you need. The simple act of dog ownership gives you purpose in life. Many days, Ryder is my sole purpose for getting out of bed.
There is a mental trigger in your mind that associates purpose with happiness. Nothing makes you feel more fulfilled than knowing you are needed. You are very much needed and you too deserve to be happy!
If you suffer from depression and anxiety, please take the time to talk about it. Don’t wait 15 years like I did. There are many people out there that want to help you. We all go through different seasons in life. There is no need to be ashamed of what you are feeling.
If you feel like you are in need of a therapy or an ESA, please reach out to a professional. Your doctor will be there for you to talk to and help find the right routine to help you with your situation. And if you need an extra boost in finding your happiness, join our 5 Day Bliss Challenge.