By: Matt Barnett, from Sydney AUS
For hundreds, if not thousands of years, dogs have provided humans with companionship, love, and support on many levels. They provide us with benefits ranging from protection to our families to unbeatable companionship. And as if this weren't enough, researchers have started studying their many health benefits, obtaining astounding results!
Studies show that dogs can actually help improve mental health, helping fight depression and anxiety in many different ways while boosting our overall wellbeing!
Here are 8 ways that your furry friend can help improve your mental and emotional state!
1. Love and Acceptance
Dogs offer love unlike any other animal. While normal relationships can come with strings and underlying judgement, dogs will always be there for you with unbiased love and support. Knowing that they are there for you, even when nobody else is, is a great feeling. This in itself, has immense benefits!
2. Healthy Heart
People experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety show an increased risk of hypertension. Having a dog can actually help you have a healthier heart and they have shown to help decrease blood pressure. Other studies show that people who own pets, specifically dogs, exercise more frequently than those who don’t own a dog. This is essential for treating high blood pressure and helping fight depression.
Depression starts at the root of your life, often affecting your sleep, exercise and social life. That’s why it’s essential to create routine to help fight the bog that depression creates. From a regular feeding time, daily exercise or training schedule, dogs help promote schedule and routine. Forget an alarm clock! Dogs know when it’s breakfast time so forget sleeping in!
Studies suggest that people who suffer from depression often show lower levels of serotonin (our happiness hormone) than those who don’t. Well luckily for you, just petting a dog can help increase serotonin levels. On top of the pats and cuddles, exercise also helps boost serotonin levels, leading to wellness, happiness, and an overall better mood.
Having a living creature rely on you for their wellbeing is a big deal. Owning a dog takes quite a bit of responsibility because even though there are plenty of good days, there are also things such as vet visits, training, regular feeding, cleanup, and more. Knowing that your dog is relying on you for survival shows you that you’re worth more than you may think.
6. Companionship Everyone knows that dogs are the ultimate companion! You can leave the house for 5 minutes, come back and your dog will act like it’s been days or weeks. It’s great having a companion to go on walks or adventures with. It’s great to get outdoors and go on hikes with your dog, or even stay inside and lay on the couch. Your dog will be down for whatever.
7. Stress Relief
Not only is stress a side effect of depression, but studies suggest stress can actually increase risks for depression. When petting a dog, not only do serotonin levels rise, but there's also a boost in oxytocin, a hormone found to be beneficial for decreasing the stress response.
8. Social Interaction
Social interaction is key to helping find relief from symptoms of depression. Taking your dog down to the dog park, or even walking them down the street can open up opportunities for socialization. Depending on where you live, there are likely dog related clubs to join and meet new people!
Who knew dogs could have such a [scientifically-proven] powerful effect on both our mental and physical health! As if we needed another reason to adopt a dog! If you feel that you have been experiencing changes in your mood lately, it’s important to seek professional help and get guidance on how to better overcome these symptoms.
Photo Source: Conde Nast Traveler
By: Matt Barnett, from DogDojo.org