Studies have shown that dogs have a positive impact on our mental health, and even lower our rate while we pet them. Considering the millions of people that suffer from mental health disorders, it is important to raise awareness of maintaining one’s mental health. Unfortunately, it can be a difficult battle trying to find the right treatment. However, there is one thing that tends to make a lot of people happy: dogs! It’s no secret that a pet can bring tons of joy into your life, but their effect on humans goes much deeper than some people realize. Although pups might not be able to completely cure a mental health disorder for everyone, they can surely help.
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How Dogs Improve Our Mental Health
Having human friends is obviously important, but we can’t always spend time with them. Also, nothing compares to the companionship that animals provide. No matter what, your dog is always there wagging their tail when you come home and ready to spend time with you.
Anxiety is a very common mental health disorder that affects millions of people, and there are different types and levels of severity. The constant feelings of worry and anxiety are not easy to handle, which can interfere with your day-to-day life. Fortunately, dogs tend to be great at relieving these anxious feelings.
A common symptom of anxiety are heart palpitations, which pups can help reduce. If you’ve ever been around a cute, friendly dog, you are probably familiar with the calming effect they have. Simply petting a dog or being in close contact with one can reduce your heart rate. As a result, you will feel less anxious and more relaxed.
Help with Depression
Like anxiety, depression is another common mental health disorder. When you have depression, managing your daily life can be extremely difficult. However, owning a dog is known to help with the overbearing feelings of depression. For example, studies have shown that playing with dogs can increase your levels of dopamine, which are needed in order to feel happy.
A huge struggle of living with depression is trying to force yourself to carry out the simple tasks of your day. When you have a dog, it requires you to set a routine and take care of their needs, like feeding them every morning. Since you’ll have to get out of bed to care for them, it can help push you to take care of your own needs as well. Owning a dog makes you feel needed and gives you a sense of self-worth, which is important for reducing depression.
Life can come at you fast, with lots of stressors included. Whether it’s stress at work, your home life, a large amount of responsibilities, or all of the above, it all can be very stressful. When life gets tough, your dog will always be there to greet you at the door. Honestly, nothing is better than coming home from a hard day at work to see your dog’s happy face. No matter how hard your days get, a dog can make it all seem a little less stressful.
Increase Our Exercise
As humans, we need to exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and so do our dogs! Not only is staying active important for your body, but it’s great for the mind as well. Exercising helps your brain release endorphins, which are known as “feel-good” chemicals. Dogs need to be walked and played with, encouraging you to participate in activities with them. Ultimately, owning a dog helps you increase your levels of exercise, allowing your brain to pump out those endorphins!
Encourages Social Interaction
When walking your dog in public, it is very possible that people will come up to you to pet your dog. Many people are dog lovers, which makes them more likely to interact with you if you have a pup. Also, you could even take Fido to the dog park to play with other dogs. There will be other pet parents there to interact with, and you might even find a new friend. Socializing with people can be a very positive experience, making it great for your mental health.
Sense of Purpose
Dogs rely on us for their health, well-being, and happiness. Without us, they wouldn’t have someone to feed and walk them everyday. By being their caretaker, it can give you a sense of purpose in life. Owning a dog makes you focus on their needs, which distracts you from any negative feelings you may be experiencing. In the end, caring for another living being helps you feel successful and gives meaning to your life.
Provide Unconditional Love
Everyone wants to feel loved, that’s a no-brainer. Being loved makes us feel wanted and appreciated, and is extremely important for our mental health. Luckily, our pets love us no matter what is going on in our lives. Whether you’re going through a break up, lost your job or failed a test, your pup is always there for you with slobbery kisses. Truly, a dog just wants to love you and receive the same affection from you as well.
The Effects Dogs Have On Our Health
We’ve all pet a dog or even snuggled with one at some point in our lives. That being said, you are probably familiar with the relaxing effect animals have on us. All they want is love and attention, and they provide us with the same. When you pet or interact with a pup, it has these effects on your health:
- Lowered blood pressure
- Slowed heart rate
- Relaxed muscle tension
These effects on our body can help improve our mental health. Our daily stressors can cause problems like high blood pressure, increased heart rate and tense muscles. By having a dog, you can alleviate these health problems that are having an effect on your mind.
Things to Consider Before Getting a Dog
When you adopt a dog, there are a lot of things to consider beforehand. You will be their sole caretaker, which requires a lot more responsibility than some people realize. For example, they cost a lot of money, take up your free time, and need to be trained.
Dogs are a huge investment, making it vital to budget the cost before getting one. Prior to diving head first into the responsibility, consider that you will have to purchase toys, food, a collar and leash, and even more. Not to mention, you will have to pay for vet visits as well. Even if you are a dog lover, you can’t deny the fact that they are an expensive thing to own. The last thing you want to do is get a dog and then not be able to afford it, which could force you to take them back to a shelter. Doing that has a negative impact on a dog’s happiness, so you should be in it for the long haul if you decide to get one.
When you decide to be a pet owner, you sacrifice a lot of your free time to take care of them. They constantly need to be fed, walked, and let outside to use the bathroom. Not only do they have these basic needs, but they require love and affection as well. Of course, if you have a regular full time job, you can probably still have the ability to own a dog. Plenty of hard working people manage to have a furry friend, so it’s definitely possible.
However, if you travel a lot for your job, it might not be the best idea for you to get a dog. Leaving them for long periods of time can make them confused and upset about you being gone. Plus, you would always have to find someone to watch them while you are away. Overall, owning a dog is similar to having a child, because they require lots of your time and supervision.
Pets can be destructive and require training
Your dog might not be perfect when you first adopt them, and that’s okay. Especially if you get them as a puppy or at a young age, they probably won’t have the necessary training yet. You’ll need to teach them to go potty outside, listen to commands, and not to chew your belongings.
Training a dog can be frustrating and requires a lot of patience. Unfortunately, there might be a few accidents and chewed up shoes along the way. That being said, you will need to prepare yourself for their destructive behavior and the time it may take to train them.
Alternatives to Owning a Dog
Owning a dog isn’t always feasible for everyone. Unfortunately, some housing contracts will not allow pets, which obviously will prevent you from getting a dog. Or, you may have a family member or roommate that is allergic. Not to mention, dogs are expensive and not everyone can afford one. Even if you aren’t able to take on the responsibility of pet ownership, there are other ways you can spend time with some pups. Next, we’ll show you some alternatives to owning a dog.
Volunteer at an Animal Shelter
Animal shelters are usually very welcoming to volunteers. Many of them allow you to “rent” a dog for a short period of time to take them for a walk. Depending on the shelter, they may offer more involvement like volunteering at events. This way, you can spend time with dogs in need without having to own one. Plus, a homeless dog will love getting some needed attention.
Spend time with friends and family that have dogs
Another simple way to spend time with a dog is to reach out to friends and family. Out of everyone you know, there’s bound to be someone who owns a dog. You could offer to walk their pup, or even let them know you’re available to dog sit. Or, you could simply spend time with the person and ask them to bring their dog along. Not only will you get the mental health benefits of being with an animal, but you can get some quality time with a loved one as well.