The Canine Therapist

If you deal with depression and anxiety, psychotherapy, medication, and self-help practices such as meditation may help you manage your mood. And an increasing body of research also suggests a puppy prescription.   

Pet Owner Perks

Indeed, there’s evidence that therapy dogs, service dogs, and regular companion canines can all help boost people’s moods. For example, scientists have found that dog owners who interact with their animals show increased levels of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes positive feelings, trust and bonding. What’s more, studies also show the dogs have elevated levels of the hormone after gazing into their owners’ eyes.

Dogs can improve people’s physical health as well. In fact, research cited by NPR showed heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who didn’t, and that petting your own dog can reduce your blood pressure. Oxytocin, the bonding hormone that interacting with dogs promotes, also increases the body’s readiness to heal. 

Other People’s Pets

You don’t need to be a dog owner to reap some of these rewards. For instance, you could sign up to be a dog walker in order to get more exercise and increase your social interactions while you’re walking other people’s pets. Both regular exercise and increased interactions have been shown to help manage and mitigate the symptoms of depression. Plus, you’ll be earning extra money, a boon to your body and your bank account.

Or you could find a human therapist who uses therapy dogs during sessions. These specially-trained dogs can help people deal with anxiety and stress. They often encourage patients to be more open during sessions, according to the American Psychiatric Association, perhaps because they provide a calming, non-judgmental presence in the therapy room.

So, whether you already have a dog of your own or want to increase your connection with other people’s pets, mutts can be good medicine at home, in the park, or in your therapist’s office.  

Cultivate a Hobby or Learn a New Skill for Better Mental Health

Good hobbies are entertaining, fulfilling, and great for improving your mental health. Identifying and pursuing a hobby is just one more way to incorporate self-care into your life.

Additionally, those hobbies are a great way to help manage depression or ease anxiety. After all, a hobby belongs to you — you choose how you spend your time and you own the creative license that allows you to decide when, where, and how to create. Instead of using negative coping mechanisms to help deal with negative feelings and stress, you can put all of your attention on your new activities and create your own healthy coping mechanism.

The journey — and the outcome — bring a sense of accomplishment. Whether you’re finishing a sweater, testing a new gaming app you’ve created, or putting that model car into its display case, you’ll experience a sense of pride while you’re working on and after you’ve completed that project. Whether your hobby’s making art, volunteering and helping others, improving a personal skill, or sewing clothes for your children, that excitement you feel when you’re sketching out or in the middle of a project will give your life purpose and meaning. 

Learn to Play an Instrument

You can pick up a second-hand instrument, such as a guitar, at a thrift shop or even a music shop, which often also sells used instruments. Not sure which instrument to try? Check out these tips from US News on learning to play a musical instrument “on the cheap.”

Learn Something New Online

YouTube, Netflix, and various television channels such as PBS are rich in documentaries on a whole host of topics. Why not cultivate a little knowledge about your favorite actors, astronomy, world history, or something else that fascinates you?

Research Your Family’s Origins

You can start your journey through genealogy with a free membership to an online site like As your search widens and you begin to seek more information and details, you can expand your membership — as your budget allows. 

Get Outside and Garden

Whether it’s vegetables and fruits or flowers and herbs, gardening is therapeutic and fulfilling. All you need are a few packets of seeds to start. Or, you can visit your local garden center for greenhouse-grown starter plants. You can even take on some larger outdoor projects like tree planting and sodding.  

Pour Your Heart Out on Paper

Splurge on a couple of fancy writing pads and pens, pop on some music to inspire your inner muse, and write. Poetry is a wonderful medium for expressing your thoughts. You can challenge yourself with different forms or think outside the lines with freeform, freeverse styles. 

Brush Up on Your Cooking Skills

Watch the cooking channel or YouTube videos for inspiration, purchase a few new ingredients, and recreate a new dish. Brand new to cooking? YouTube and other websites offer free, online cooking courses. It’s really a useful life skill — and a great way to impress friends and family.

Fascinated by Illusion? Learn Magic

The internet offers plenty of tutorials on all manner of styles. Start with these fun tricks: learn to levitate a dollar or card in mid-air, change a card’s colors, or levitate a card from hand to hand.

Learn to Draw

Another great hobby for improving your creative and communication skills, enhancing strategic thinking, and releasing stress is drawing. This hobby requires only a pad, pens/pencils, and an eraser — but you can branch out to draw digitally, too. Whether you try your hand at landscapes, still-lifes, caricatures, cartoons, or any number of other ideas, the only “talent” that’s required is the ability to germinate an idea. 

Just Do It!

The best hobbies will relax you, bring enjoyment, and increase your skills. Some hobbies are solitary endeavors, while some encourage you to meet other like-minded individuals. Incorporating a hobby into your daily (or weekly) schedule gives you something to look forward to, a focus for your energy, and a healthier way to combat boredom and increase positive motivation.

Managing Anxiety: How To Reduce Stress


Living with anxiety can be overwhelming at times, especially if you have a stressful job. It may seem that there is no reprieve, that the stress and negative emotions keep piling up with nowhere to go. It can even affect your work performance or your relationships, and because anxiety is often tied to other mood disorders such as depression, it can leave you feeling helpless and alone.

Fortunately, there are several simple ways you can manage your anxiety. Reducing stress and finding ways to perform self-care are two important factors, as are finding ways to cope with everyday events that might trigger those feelings. For instance, you might feel anxious when faced with attending a party where there are many people you don’t know, and while it may seem that avoiding those types of situations is best, Psychology Today says that facing down your fears is the best way to move past them. 

Finding ways to deal with those emotions that work for you is important; read on for more tips. 

Exercise is key

It can be difficult sometimes to get up and pursue a workout when you’ve been feeling anxious or depressed, but many people have found relief through exercise. Choose something that’s either soothing–think swimming or gardening–or that helps you feel in control, such as a sport you enjoy. Having a physical outlet for your stress and anxiety will allow you to work through it everyday while helping your body feel better.

Make your home a safe place

Anxiety sufferers need a place they can come to after a long day and relax, so make sure your home is a calming place that makes you feel good. Chaos and clutter will only make things worse, so tidy up and get organized. Create an area that is only yours, especially if you have a large family; an office or just a section of the bedroom where you can go and recharge.

Get some rest

You can’t expect to battle anxiety when your body is exhausted, but it’s common for anxiety sufferers to have trouble sleeping at times. Exercising daily will help, but it’s also important to stick to a routine to help yourself stay on track. Get into the habit of taking a relaxing hot shower or bath before bed, and minimize screen time for an hour or two before you hit the sheets. Watching television or scrolling through your social media newsfeed can have a negative impact on your rest. 

Eat well

You may be wondering how your diet can affect your mood, but the answer is simply that your body and mind are closely linked. When you don’t feel well physically, your mental health is always impacted. Keeping your body healthy with well-balanced meals is one of the easiest ways to keep your anxiety at bay.

Explore coping methods

Everyone has their own way of coping with anxiety; choose the one that’s right for you, or a combination of different methods. These can include practicing meditation and/or yoga, which focus on learning mindfulness; seeking therapy from a licensed professional; using an art form to transform your mood; or taking mini-trips to get away from the stresses of life regularly. 

Mindfulness can be extremely useful for sufferers of anxiety, as it allows them to focus on the present rather than worrying about the past or future. Art therapy is a great way to exercise your creative muscles and channel your feelings into something tangible, and when used in conjunction with talk therapy it has proven to be impactful for even those with the most debilitating anxieties. Travel is another great way to cope with your feelings of anxiety, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money or go far to get the benefits. Do some research to find great places near you, such as state parks or museums.