5 Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Dog
How pets can help you cope with anxiety, depression, and stress
The bond between dogs and humans is incredibly strong. Many pet owners even think of their animal as a member of their family. Dogs provide unconditional love and a sense of emotional support, alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety, improve physical health, encourage playfulness and laughter, reduce blood pressure and muscle tension, along with many other positive effects. Research shows that even interacting with a friendly dog triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine, two feel-good chemicals that can improve your mood.
It’s easy to see how pets can come with some pretty powerful mental health benefits. Here are just a few.
Owning a dog is a commitment, but also provides purpose and responsibility. Caring for an animal can help bring pleasure and a sense of self-worth into your life. It can make you feel needed and wanted, with a great sense of fulfillment, while taking focus away from negative feelings (such as depression).
Dogs encourage you to go outside and get more exercise with them, whether it be hiking, walking, running, or playing catch. Exercise has been proven to increase endorphins in the brain and fight depression. There are also many health benefits of spending time outdoors.
The companionship of a dog can help to alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. It can lead to increased opportunities for socializing, creating friendships, and finding social support. Pets can be great ice-breakers, making it easier to start conversations and meet people in your neighborhood or local area, such as; talking to other pet owners on walks, in dog training classes, at pet stores, or while at the dog park.
Routine is often the anchor that helps form healthy habits and reduce stress levels. Dogs urge you to maintain a certain structure in your life, and they benefit from structure themselves. They require a certain schedule for sleeping, eating, and exercising. They may nudge at you to get up in the morning or whine to go out at the same time every day. Having a consistent routine helps to keep both you and your pet stay balanced and relaxed.
Petting, hugging, and holding a loving animal can lower your blood pressure and quickly calm and soothe you when you’re stressed or in an anxious state of mind. Animals also help you to live in the moment, encouraging you to become more mindful of the present and appreciate the joy of that particular moment without judgement. They don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what may happen tomorrow. This is a psychological process called mindfulness, which is a great way to reduce anxiety.