Kind acts like volunteering for an animal charity beats therapy for depression

Doing kind acts can reduce depression
Doing kind acts can reduce depression. Image: MikeB
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Depression or just feeling down is not uncommon. It’s part of life. We need to accept it and enjoy the moments when we feel livelier and happier. But if you’ve ever felt blue and I’m sure pretty well everyone reading this has at some stage, the secret to boosting your mood is to do something for someone else. And I’m going to include in the word “someone” both animals AND the people who provide charitable services to animals such as animal rescue.

If you want to be kind to be happier by providing your voluntary services to an animal rescue, I don’t think you could pick a better way to volunteer because you are helping two species of sentient beings: animals and people.

A study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology came to the conclusion that kind acts can reduce depression and benefit some people more than NHS therapies in the UK. The study was carried out under the leadership of Dr. David Cregg of Ohio State University.

They analysed three types of treatment against depression which were measured using a statistical term called ‘Cohen’s d’. Normally a Cohen’s d value of 0.2 means that a treatment has had a small effect. A value of 0.5 indicates a medium effect. A value of 0.8 indicates a large effect.

When people carried out an act of kindness which for me would include volunteering as described, the score was 1.00. For cognitive reappraisal it was 0.92 and for social activities it was 0.74.

Planned social activities included baking biscuits for friends and offering to give people a lift. Cognitive reappraisal is also known as cognitive behavioural therapy and as talking therapy. It can help depressed people manage their problems by changing the way they think and behave.

Dr. Jennifer Cheavens also of Ohio State University said:

“We often think that people with depression have enough to deal with, so we don’t want to burden them by asking them to help others. But these results run counter to that. Doing nice things to people and focusing on the needs of others may actually help people with depression and anxiety feel better about themselves.”

The study covered a period of 10 weeks. The results appear to be quite positively in favour of being kind to others. It doesn’t have to be volunteering at an animal charity, but as mentioned, if you love animals and want to help, you couldn’t pick a better project.

A quick search using Google for “application to volunteer at an animal shelter”, produced a plethora of results from volunteering at PETA, the National Animal Welfare Trust, the RSPCA, the Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Wood Green Pets Charity, Foal Farm Animal Rescue Center and so on.

Animal charities of all kinds always need volunteers. It doesn’t matter which country. The Dogs Trust, for example, has a long list of volunteer positions in the UK from volunteer canine assistant through to dog school volunteer, events volunteer and volunteer foster carers and a lot more.

In my personal opinion, it isn’t just acts of kindness which helps to alleviate depression. It is doing something in general, getting outside, getting involved, interacting with people and the sorts of things which automatically helps to keep you in the present and feeling more positive. And people are social animals. They need to interact with people. You can do that and help the animals at animal charities at the same time.

There is one caveat. When working with animals as a volunteer don’t work with euthanasia. That will achieve the exact opposite. I’d leave that to the professionals. But even they often have difficulties with it.

Turkish road sweeper’s act of kindness towards a street cat

Trapping, spaying and neutering, and rehoming or releasing (TNR) stray cats is an act of kindness and not a crime.

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