How Man's Best Friend Improves Your Mental Health

Not only is a dog man’s best friend, rescuer, and law enforcer, but also man’s best doctor. You’ve probably already experienced some of the benefits of having a furry companion without even knowing it. It’s impossible to feel bad for too long with a dog by your side.

Their adoring faces and goofy antics can make even the grumpiest person crack a smile. Just owning a dog encourages activities that do wonders for your mental health. Although you may not attribute your increased health benefits to Fido, there’s science that backs this up. Here’s how having a dog in your life improves your overall state of mind.

Biological Benefits

A dog isn’t just another pretty face. Canines naturally connect with humans and read our body language, knowing when we need a snuggle or to get up and play. It is because of this animal’s mood-boosting powers that our health seems to improve just by petting them.

Not only does owning a dog lower your chances of suffering from depression, but it also increases the levels of your feel-good hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. The reason this happens is because dogs fulfill one of our most basic and important needs: the need for affection.

Studies have shown how critical it is for people to experience loving touches and attention. Dogs give that to people and then some. No matter what your background is, having an animal to love and hold has an extreme soothing effect during periods of anxiety and stress.

As people pet a friendly dog, their heart rate slows, their blood pressure drops, their muscles relax and their breathing takes on a normal rhythm. All of these health and psychological benefits can be enjoyed in under 30 minutes, much more quickly than some prescribed drugs.

Owning a dog also eases the negative side effects of loneliness and gets you up and moving (whether inside or out), benefitting both your mental and physical health by exercising with your dog. This is especially beneficial to older adults.

As people age and lose close friends and family, their chances of developing depression increase as their feelings of isolation and loneliness also increase. The benefits of pet therapy for seniors cannot be overstated. Not only do older people with dogs require less hospital visits and report better mental health, but they are overall more satisfied with their lives.

Healthy Habits

Being a pet owner requires responsibility, and these responsibilities actually help in the fight against mental health issues. Just the act of caring for another being alone is a great way to improve your state of mind. Isolation can be a gateway to depression.

However, by having a dog, the focus on yourself and your problems will shift in a more positive direction, and the feeling of being needed and wanted will add years to your life. Since your canine needs love and care, it will give you structure and routines to follow through on, relieving many of the negative effects mental health issues can have on you.

By giving you comfort, your pet can reduce anxiety levels and boost your self-esteem and confidence. Since dogs don’t let past wrongs or fears of tomorrow bring them down (and when are they ever truly down?), it can help owners adopt their perspective and give them the courage they need to face the world.

That being said, dogs can help you socialize and develop new relationships with people. It’s always nice to have a human friend to talk to (although dogs are excellent listeners), and having a dog can help form those friendships more smoothly and easily.

Dog owners are always ready to talk about their favorite pooch. The time outside will also lift your mood and expose you to some much needed Vitamin D from the sun, an essential vitamin to combat depression and other mental conditions.

Your fuzzy friend should even end the day with you and sleep in your room. Studies have shown that sleeping with your dog not only makes it easier to fall asleep, but also sleep more deeply. Nothing is better for a mentally strained brain than a good night’s rest.

Take Away

Owning a dog is one the best decisions you can ever make in your life. Not only will you be helping and caring for an animal in need, but they will shower you with unconditional love as well.

Dogs don’t care what you look like, how smart you are, or what your job is. No matter what, you will always be their favorite person. They are a tremendous help when it seems like your mind is fighting against you, making healthy habits that were at once hard to do into much easier tasks.

In the end, dogs give you a sense of purpose when it can be hard to find one. With each tail wag and slobbery kiss, you know you there’s nothing the two (or three or four!) of you can’t handle.

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