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Winter Blues and Pets

Prescription to help you beat the winter blues: your pet! In wintertime, some people find they lack energy, feel “down”, and just want to sit on the couch until spring comes. There are a couple of physical reasons for this, and quite a few pet activities you can do to pick yourself back up.

When daylight hours are shorter, as they are in wintertime, your body gets less sunlight. That can mess up your sleep patterns. And sunlight triggers your brain to release the body’s natural feel-good chemical called serotonin. So, the less sunlight you get, the less of these chemicals you get. When the mood shift in winter is really obvious, that might be a sign you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Your doctor can give you some easy but important tips to help you deal with SAD.

But if you’re just a little blue during the winter, your pet might have some answers. First, “listen” to your pet. Have you ever found your pet just looking at you directly in the face, or pawing at you gently? It’s not unusual for dogs and cats to sense their owner’s moods. They know when something’s not quite right. And if they’re giving you this kind of attention, take note. And take action by trying some of the activities mentioned below.

Researchers found that playing with a pet can boost your mood. Even if you’re stuck indoors, your pet can help—and the benefits go both ways.

  • Give your pet some undivided attention, and see if his happiness makes you smile.
  • Make time for active play: roll a ball for your pet to chase, play tug of war, play hide and seek.
  • Make grooming a special time for you both. Stroking or brushing your pet’s fur can be soothing for you both.

If you can get outside with your pet, do it. Here are some reasons why:

  • Walking or jogging is great for both of you.
  • Getting out to a dog park is good for you and your pooch, too.
  • Take your cat or dog for a ride in the car—during daylight—if your animal enjoys trips like that.
  • Plan regular outings to a pet-friendly shop.
  • Take the opportunity to interact with other pet-lovers while you’re out. Social interactions can go a long way to improve mood and motivate you to get out more.

Has your pet made you notice your own mood? What do you do with your pet in the winter to stay active and boost your mood? Share your tips with other readers here.

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