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Nature, Dolphins and Depression

October 19, 2010 by  

Nature, Dolphins and Depression

The Taoist have philosophy based on the concept of Yin & Yang. It is based on the observation of nature and living in harmony with it. The seasons come and go. Night becomes day and then night again. But we humans have all but separated ourselves from the nurturing of Mother Nature (yin) and the action of Father Time (yang). It is a philosophy of being at peace, of being at One with Nature.

Woody Allen summed it up humorously when he stated, “I’m two with nature.” Although Steely Dan’s album title “Two Against Nature” might be a closer description of how we have come not only to live out of tune with nature but also to fight against it.

We fight the day/night cycle by staying up late into the evening and even into the wee hours of the next morning; and this alters our own inborn circadian rhythms — our body’s time clock. We deprive ourselves of essential nutrients found in whole fresh foods, instead replacing them with a diet heavy in unnatural preservatives and hydrogenated oils and corn syrups. Is it any wonder our society is chronically ill? Sure we live longer, but what for?

One of the prevalent health issues of our day is depression. And in our way of dealing with everything, we step outside of nature to find an answer. And the answer we came up with is therapy and drugs. And still people suffer depression daily. So how about we turn to nature for some help?

Well, it seems that some people are more attuned to their surroundings and environmental helpers than most. And groups of them have been healing their depression… by swimming with the dolphins in Honduras.

The objective was “to evaluate the effectiveness of animal facilitated therapy with dolphins, controlling for the influence of the natural setting, in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.”

The results were so satisfying and promising that the study of the curative effects of depression after swimming with dolphins was reported in the June 26, 2005 issue of the British Medical Journal.

For the study, 30 patients diagnosed with mild or moderate depression were sent to Honduras for some water fun. Prior to the study, all 30 people were taken off their medications and discontinued psychotherapy. Then 15 people enjoyed water snorkeling and fun amongst themselves while the other 15 swam with dolphins. At the study’s conclusion, the group who engaged in water sports with dolphins found the severity of their depressive symptoms to be markedly more reduced than the group that snorkeled without animals.

According to BMJ: “The therapy was effective in alleviating symptoms of depression after two weeks of treatment. Animal facilitated therapy with dolphins is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression, which is based on a holistic approach, through interaction with animals in nature.”

It looks like water swimming, at least the leisurely kind, did help in both groups. However, water exercise with dolphins showed better results. Researchers contribute the healing effects of animal-facilitated therapy to the emotions raised by the interaction with the dolphins. From this they suggest that interaction with animals in general can be as effective as or more effective than drugs and psychotherapy in treating mild to moderate depression. And we already know that blood pressure drops in those who pet or stroke their cat. 

Perhaps it’s not the animals per se that is helping, but that during the time we are with them we allow ourselves to return to our center, to relax and to join with the rhythms of nature.

My son Alex and I recently interacted with dolphins in Florida, and not only did we bond, but I for one hadn’t felt so relaxed in years.

Antonioli, C. & Reveley, M.A. (June 27, 2005). “Randomised controlled trial of animal facilitated therapy with dolphins in the treatment of depression.” British Journal of Medicine,

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley

is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. The Wiley Method provides a revolutionary way of providing recovery and prevention of chronic pain, illness and disease. Grab your FREE COPY of Dr. Mark Wiley's "The 3 Secrets to Optimal Health" HERE.

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  • dan az

    Ive never really been depressed because work has always kept my mind occupied.If you like what your doing then its not depressing and your mind is controlled like with the enjoyment of the ocean and dolphins.If you have a job that is depressing then change it to something that makes you happy.Every day life could be depressing living with pain could be also but I find that work always helps me.

  • Kitty M

    What If Time! Honduras is not possible for most of us!
    Katt of S.D.

    • Vicki

      Be still and know.

      Sit quietly and meditate or pray as suits your belief system.

      I have always separated happiness from things and events. I do not need a fancy car or big screen tv to be happy. I do not need to like my work to be happy. I choose to be happy in the very act of being. You can to.

    • http://deleted J.McConnell

      What about a pet such as a dog?
      They don’t care what you look like or how much money
      you have and show more loyalty than many people.

      • http://?? Joe H.

        I have never seen ANYONE as loyal as my dog!!!

        • Claire

          Joe H– And you never will. Dogs are always loyal to the end. Gosh, I think dogs are wonderful.

  • JimH

    A walk in the woods or floating down the river in a canoe is very rejuvinating.

    • Christin

      I agree, JimH.

      I like to go to my farm and walk around the hills under the tall trees and go to my garden to see how it is growing. It is special when we see the squirrels flirting, the deer running, the birds calling, and the rabbits scurrying. We have seen opossoms and armadillos, but only the paw prints of the raccoons. Getting away to nature is a good time to rejuvinate and I am happy being in the midst of God in our place.

  • Samara Zitnik

    While swimming with Dolphins is a healing event, I beg of you to swim with wild dolphins. Taking dolphins into captivity is an even that would depress even the most upbeat positive person. A large percentage of those taken into captivity die of depression and suicide themselves.

    • eddie47d

      That is 100% true and it happened to the famous Flipper(Kathy). Captive animals need lots of space.

  • John

    This is so stupid I can’t believe it! As if we can drop everything and trek off to Honduras to play with dolphins…are you serious? Maybe we should buy one for our backyard…c’mon, get real.

    • Christina

      So John what’s to keep you from playing with animals in nature in America – got a dog/cat? Or visit a neighbor who has one!

      From your comments I guess you’d rather spend money on drugs / therapy!

    • DaveH

      Why the attack, John? Dr. Wiley was just presenting some information. Obviously many of us can’t afford it, but those that can might appreciate the information.

    • movingtarget

      Yeah John, I agree, I don’t have any interest in swimming with dolphins. I thought they were going to say that they found a chemical in dolphins that make them playful, and when they gave it to people their depression went away. I found the artical rather depressing, but after I read what I wrote I laughed and my depression went away…

  • FreedomFighter

    Growing a spine and facing life, knowing you walk the pathway to the light. Maybe helps some, maybe.

    Laus Deo
    Semper Fi

  • Dorine Collins

    We have been taught to think of ourselves so much that everything is me – me – me. In touch with animals, be it dog, cat, horse, bird and etc. is to get our thoughts off ourselves. If you don’t like pets, try bird watching, fishing or something in that order. Life is overwhelming if we get caught up in ourselves. God made us to be kind to one another, take care of the animals and our earth. Take a vacation and try it for a week.

  • James

    I’ve found that vigorous walking works. Go to a nice park (most have walking paths) and walk vigorously for at least 15 minutes (30 minutes is better, but if you’re out of shape it might take some time to work up to that). You should get your heart rate up to where you have to open your mouth to breath (to supply it with enough oxygen). If that isn’t possible, I’d consider buying a treadmill. This is gratifying because you are actually doing something that will increase your body’s health. Our bodies are not like cars, you can put a car up on blocks for a few years to perserve its life, but do that with a human body and its dies. Bodies are designed to be used, and the more they are used the stronger they get. The only way to exercise our hearts is to get the heart rate up by exercising.

    • DaveH

      Good advice, James.

      • Granny Mae

        I was born and raised in Michigan and in the winter time a lot of people would get depressed and it was found that because the weather is so over cast most of the time people were not getting enough sunshine and physical activity. If we bought light bulbs that were giving off what they call natural light or simulated sun light and made yourself exercise for half hour each day you could over come the depression. Interacting with pets is also very helpful. I make sure I get out in the sun for a little while everyday and I love my pets and my country abode! It seems the sunlight works not on the skin but in the eyes ! Amazing these bodies of ours ! I do know one other thing that adds to depression and that is drinking alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant so if you are already depressed don’t drink until you are over it !

        • http://?? Joe H.

          Granny Mae,
          where in Michigan? I was born and raised in Adrian/Tecumseh area.

        • Christin

          Taking Vitamin D3 in the morning, too, will help your body get what it isn’t getting from the lack of sunlight during cold overcast northern winters… was born in the North, too.

  • http://N/A Sue

    Well, first of all who has the money to go to Honduras?
    And it makes a difference what is causing the depression to start with. Is it sorrow over the loss of a spouse, or child? Let me tell you, you do not just “man” that out! Grief is a process, and takes time. Age and health make a difference too.

    Is it the loss of one’s home? Or job? Or both?

    Divorce? Betrayal by one you believed loved you?
    Illness can cause this, as well as serious injuries. Just what type of depression are they talking about?

    Stress for normal reasons, yes we can handle that type of depression.
    But the rest..not that simple.

    • Granny Mae

      Sue you are so right. I know of a person that is depressed all the time and never seems to get over it. She seems to be mentally ill along with the depression. You can see the difference in the two. She has a real problem.

    • Karen


      I agree with you also. I would say that most people think of depression like “if you really wanted to get over it you could”. Someone in my family actually told me that. I have had chemical depression since I had my children. People need to realize that all of us are created different.
      Our bodies take in things differently. Yes some people have what I call situational depression such as a job loss, a death, or other such things. These situations will change and the person will get better. Then there are those of us that have a chemical imbalance that has caused the depression. Not all depression is the I feel down or sad.
      If I could swim with Dolphins believe me I would but until that happens ……………

  • J. Wayne

    Thanks Mark,
    Our cat and dog have passed on and we do not have a pet at this time.
    Being in real estate I have suffered through two catastrophic losses twice from government actions in the market and at my age now on the rebuild I am suffereing from depression for the first time in my life.
    Your article has convinced me it is time to get another dog or cat. The pills are not that helpful and when one sees that God spelled backward is dog I believe there is more than coincedence here!
    God bless,

  • jopa

    I remember a few years ago there was an episode of Caught on Tape where a bunch of tourists were attacked by dolphins while swimming with them.Apparently there are signs that the trainers chose to ignore when the dolphin try to establish male dominance.Rather than tell everyone to get out of the water they went for the money to be made and the tourists were bitten and beaten badly.They instinctively go after the weakest link first that being man at the time.Chalk one up for the dolphins.I believe they ( the tourists) were rather depressed after this episode.I will keep my feet dry thank you.PS When traveling out of the US be alert anything goes and good luck.

  • Gavin Wall

    It is vital that children have the opportunity to interact with animals (preferably young or small animals) at an early age. There is a part of the brain that can only be stimulated by this experience. This stimulation is integral in the forming of empathy and compassion toward fellow man, without it individuals are unable to experience these emotions.
    I manage a private school farm here in Aust. In addition to all the enrolled students, I regularly see many 3 to 5 year old children who visit the farm. To watch those who have already experienced interaction with animals is sensational, they have such a deep compassion and loving interaction with lambs and chickens. When I see this the parent will always confirm that they have a cat / dog / chickens at home. As compared to those children who are afraid, they have never experienced the interaction with animals. My reading indicates that violent criminals never experienced the interaction with animals at any age.

    • Claire

      Gavin Wall– Back in the mid-90s I taught puppy class every saturday morning for 3 years. Yes, it is wonderful to see young children interacting with their pets. Pets are great for kids. However, one thing I did notice–most of the parents “allowed” their kids to be mean to the puppies. And then the parents wondered WHY the puppies bit their kids. I can remember telling the parents about this issue. The parents need training too. A person should not allow their child to be cruel to their pets.

  • eddie47d

    All animals can be a treasure and absolutely serve a purpose in our world. Comfort,Joy,amusement,companionship and even food. I admire those who hunt for survival or out of necessity for we would all be depressed without the many choices of food. Unfortunately there are a few who don’t respect the boundaries of need vs. exploitation. I happened to see the movie The Cove last night which is about the exploitation and slaughter of dolphins. Hardly a humane way to kill these creatures.

  • http://com i41

    Well the degreed dich heads that have pushed every one needs to be happy and life can be a airy fairy on vacation dink. Life has a requirement of doing something useful and productive. I was raised that the livestock needed water, feed, and care every day even if are sick or feel like no loves you. Kids cann’t work until 18-21, what do we create pusified mama’s boys. My kids operated big high horsepowered equipment and were always doing something with livestock or different jobs. They are all officers in the military, or running their own businesses or supervisors in accounting firms. America raises wimps not tough people.

    • Christin

      I think you have the right idea. To a certain extent kids love to do what adults do. Boys like to drive the machines (ATV, rider lawn mower & tractor) and work with tools. They want to do important meaningful work, not baby stuff. We and their Uncle have taught our kids to drive the ATV, tractor, and the rider lawn mower. The boys fill the Kubota bed up with tree limbs and other fallen debris and dump it on the burn pile. Their Uncle gave them shovels for Christmas and they shoveled mushroom compost at his farm. My 11 year old loves to put the Kubota in neutral and roll down the hills! They also have helped me dig holes and plant the fruit trees and make the raised garden beds, fill them up with soil/compost, plant seeds, water and harvest the food. We have been teaching them to barbecue, cook, and bake desserts.
      We must pass on our knowledge. Teach them and give them purpose in the family.

    • Granny Mae


      I also agree. Too much time to think and play vidio games is not good !

  • Bill Clarkson

    What is to be said about the family that can’t or won’t interact with their pet(s) and drive them out to the “country” and dump them with the misguided thought that some “farmer” will take them in and care for them? All too common!! VERY cruel for the pets which become a snack for some coyote or other predator. Coyotes are becoming the princes of the night here in Indiana. What they do not devour feed the vultures in the morning.

    • Claire

      Bill Clarkson— The cruel people that dump dogs and cats are an abomination to all. It makes me so angry.

  • Boo Ewald Taylor

    Perhaps if people just got more exercise outdoors, they would feel a whole lot better. Especially if you are surrounded by beautiful mother nature. I know she’s not always pleasant, stick to fair weather of course. Make an effort to get outside, in the wild as possible.

  • Claire

    I love the great outdoors. I always have. I love everything about the earth, the sky, the stars, the moon, trees, flowers, wildlife, the change of the seasons, (excluding tornadoes). Going mushroom hunting the first part of May of every year, digging and planting in the earth and watching things grow. Throwing snowballs at the dogs and laughing when they catch them. Now that I am getting older, I really appreciate the awesomeness of all that is around me and sometimes I feel like I cannot get enough. I never want to leave it. I get “high” on this earth of ours. I take the dogs out to run in the fields, and in the woods. Then I go home and check for ticks. LOL Seriously, the great outdoors gives me peace of mind, peace in my soul. It makes me have the strength to deal with any problems I may have at the time. It gives me time to re-group. I thank God every day for this wonderful earth of ours.
    Sorry for rambling, but I speak from the heart. Everyone should know me well enough by now.

    • libertytrain

      Claire – oh, I am so looking forward to doing those things again – am still so far behind after the year of the “babies” that I don’t know if I’ll ever catch up.

      • Claire

        libertytrain–You will “catch up.” For years I was a slave to my house. I cleaned house every Saturday like a mad demon. I was a maniac about housecleaning. Then I would get pissed if anyone made a clutter. Had the washing all done and the house cleaned by 1:00 pm. Then I’d go lay on a raft in the pool. Had the pool taken out in 1997 and really haven’t regretted it. It was just something else to work on all the time. That was when I “changed.” For the past 10-13 years I do what I “want” to do. The house gets kind of cluttered and messy but it is “lived” in. My home is not not filthy, I simply do what needs to be done and no extras then I do what I “want” to do. If I prefer to work in my flowers, I do it. I play with the dogs on a daily basis. I take them out running every 2 days and on weekends. I enjoy life. A person has to enjoy their life, and do some of the things they want to do rather than being a chained to housework. Perhaps I became this way as I started getting older. All I know is that I love my newfound freedom!

        • libertytrain

          I know, I’m not too worried about the house, just trying to catch-up on the art needed for the shows each time – and the other work I do regarding articles that I need to do the same thing you do with, keeps me from doing all the other things I need to do. As well as all those Wisconsin trips re my dad – another one coming up soon – Just trying to maintain at this point – no time for too much fun.

          • Claire

            libertytrain–How is your Dad? I sincerely hope he is getting better. It is wonderful that you go to see him, and I am sure he is very happy to see you. You are a good perosn. The kind of person that I am proud to know. God bless.

          • libertytrain

            Thanks Claire – he’s not terrific, unless my brother or daughter are there with him to call me from their cell-phones I don’t actually get to talk with him – I hate that.

          • Claire

            libertytrain–It is always great to hear their voice. But at least you know what is going on and the situation. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Always. I know you are thankful for the time you spend with him, it means a lot to him and to you. After 19 years, I can still hear my Mother’s voice. And she is saying “Claire Jean, behave yourself.” I still miss her so much.

          • http://?? Joe H.

            I guess in the few daysI was out I missed something. I didn’t hear about your Dad. I’ll say prayers for him. Hope he improves for you!

          • libertytrain

            Joe H – thanks – he’s been having problems about two weeks before the babies were picked up in June – so as soon as the babies left, I went to see him – it’s a long battle and I am getting ready for my 4th trip up North since June. Thanks, he does need the prayers. My leftist, 62 year old, continuously unemployed sister is trying very hard to get his money while he is ill. Ugly situation but you know how they feel, what someone else has worked hard for all their lives is really theirs – some sort of entitlement flaw in their brains. Attorneys are on the job trying now to protect him —

          • http://?? Joe H.

            God Bless and Protect you and him as well!!

          • Granny Mae


            I am so sorry to hear of your problems. Been there and done that ! I too will pray for you and your father. Hope you get this , it has been a while since I was back here !

  • Larry

    Good idea for temporary depressed moods. I have a great dog who goes with me for frequent runs on both the trails in the wilderness and the road. Enjoy wildlife and domestic stock. In a responsable relationship, am spiritual, have much more than what I need. Problem is even with this if I get off my antidepressant eventually it will come back. Some of us need those.

    • Granny Mae


      Yes some people do need the meds. and by all means don’t give them up! If they are helping you that is a good thing !

  • Boo Ewald Taylor

    Claire, more people should speak from the heart, but first you must feel it, those butterflies in your belly from really feeling. You said what I feel of the mother earth. And I used to be crazy about my house, then realized what’s really important, spending quality time with the fam! Camping, playing games, etc… so much fun!

  • s c

    James, you’re right about walking. I’d suggest walking at night, too. If you’re able, walking is a great exercise (no frickin’ prescription required), and you can walk as fast as you want (uphill and downhill is better).
    Also, I recommend that we control what we see and hear, as far as media is concerned. Most newspapers are depressing, as are most ‘regular’ TV networks. Listen to lots of music. Get enough SLEEP.
    Learn to eat RIGHT, and try to avoid MDs (they’re not good for your health).
    Here’s to your good health and your sanity in a world gone mad.

  • jopa

    The best way to avoid depression is to vote for the Democrats.The whole country almost ended up taking their dogs for a walk after the Bush regime put our economy into total collapse.We were on the verge of standing in soup lines due to Bushes dog Karlos Rover and his policies and now he is on the Republican scene again pushing his agenda.Bush claims his biggest failure was being unable to privatize social security.If he was able to pass his bill, seniors today would have seen a fifty per cent reduction in their monthly allotments today.Remember to vote on Nov. 4th.

    • Jim H.

      jopa, The Dems are in control NOW. You want us to vote for the status quo? It really can’t be for the job they are doing NOW. If you like the high unemployment, massive debt and low markets by all means, keep voting Dem. Yes, jopa you go to the polls on Nov. 4th. The rest of us will be there on Nov. 2nd.

    • Granny Mae


      I’m not a comunist so I will pass !

  • jopa

    Jim H; This hole we are in could not have been dug in two years.No person has that much power or should say ignorance.Not one cent was paid towards the Iraq war when Dick Chaney and Tator Bush were in office and that alone stands for one trillion of our debt.There is expected to be a massive turnout for voting so it is being split up this year.Democrats vote on Nov. 2nd and the teabaggers and republicans vote on the 4th.

    • Jim H.

      jopa, you thought if you waited I wouldn’t notice your post? That would be the ONLY way you would get the last word in. How come in 06, the unemployment rate was at 4.4% and the markets were at 13000. That was also the Bush policies. Now after FOUR years of Dem congress and 2 years of Dem monopoly we are where we are at NOW. If the Dems are so good how come things are even WORSE than they were then. It’s Tea PARTY, teabaggers are what you and your boyfriend are. General elections are held on ONE day. Not like SOME primaries. You don’t even have the brains to know the election date and you want to tell me about politics? In case you didn’t get it the first time I told you, if you want high taxes, massive debt and high unemployment vote Dem.( the status quo) Do the country a favor and you and all your Dem buddies show up at the polls bright and early Nov. 4rth.

  • jopa

    JimH: When Bush left office the unemployment rate was at 9% the stock market around 7000 and since the day of the Bush tax cuts there was a steady decline in jobs.In the very beginin the TPers, Toilet papers called themselves Teabaggers and thought it was pretty cute.Well I guess the last laugh is on them or is it some brown stuff. Just facts!!

    • JimH

      jopa, the unemployment rate was at 4.4% and the markets at 13000 when Polosi and Reid took over congress. After 4 years of Dem congress and 2 years of Dem monoply We are where we are NOW. (just facts) If you and your tea bagging boy friend like how it is NOW, keep voting Dem. Get to the polls bright and early Nov. 4rth. You didn’t answer why If the Dems are so good, after 4 years of Dem congress and 2 years of Dem monopoly, we haven’t seen ANY improvment. When we had Rep monopoly we had 4.4% unemploymenent and 13000 markets and after only 2 years of Polosi & Reid we had 9% unemplyment and markets at around 7000.(just facts)


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