Why Having a Dog is Good for Your Mental Health

Friday, April 9, 2021 11:20:18 AM America/Los_Angeles

Due to the impact of the global pandemic, American adults have experienced an increase in mental health issues over the last year. A whopping 4 out of 10 American adults suffer from either depression or anxiety, with roughly 40 million Americans struggling with depression. Though there isn’t one catch-all solution to these problems, scientific research has shown that dogs can have a positive impact on your mental health for numerous reasons. Read on to learn how dogs can better your mental health. 

Photo by Andrew Pons

Dogs Provide Companionship 

Studies have found that dogs and their owners can have a mutually beneficial relationship that’s similar to human friendships. When humans and dogs are familiar with one another and exchange stares, they both experience a release of oxytocin — the love hormone. Moreover, the study showed that there’s a higher likelihood to get this release when the dog and human know one another. In short, there are chemical reasons why you feel such a strong bond with your dog. Petting a dog can also help you mitigate the stress of everyday life. A dog can make you feel less alone, especially if you’ve just moved to a new city or are experiencing some pandemic-related isolation. 

Dogs Can Help You Explore the Outdoors

Anyone who has a dog will tell you that they enjoy excursions and need to be walked frequently. Whether it’s going to the farmer’s market or on a hike, your dog will relish in this chance to explore and be out and about in the sun. Scientists have found that going outdoors can be great for your mental and physical health. You get exposed Vitamin D which has been shown to fight off depression and health conditions such as heart attacks and cancer. There’s a correlation between exposure to light and mood. On top of that, studies have shown that going outdoors can improve your ability to concentrate. 

When you’re working from home, as many people are these days, it can be hard to find time to go outside and clear your head. Even if your pup is potty trained, dogs will remind you that you both need some time to just walk around and smell the flowers. If you’re not able to go out as much as you’d like, be sure to offer a real bark pee pad like Bark Potty

Great For Exercising 

Dogs not only give you a chance to regularly venture outdoors, they can be your ideal workout buddy. If your dog is young and energetic, this is a great bonding activity for the two of you. And now that you have a workout partner, you will feel more encouraged to break a sweat. Scientific research has shown that exercise is great for depression, anxiety, and stress.  For instance, when you workout, you release endorphins and dopamine but also alleviate the physical effects of stress like muscle soreness. In addition, working out can boost your self-confidence.

Dogs Can Keep You Silly 

Once we become adults, there’s this pressure to be mature and serious. There are less and less opportunities where it’s okay to just let loose. But science has shown that frequently laughing is fantastic for managing stress and boosting your mood. There’s no shortage of videos of dogs being goofy online. Owning a dog gives you a chance to loosen up and just be silly every now and then. These are some funny things you can do together:

  • Matching Costumes: On Halloween, dress your dog in a funky costume for trick-or-treating. Join in on the fun by getting a matching costume. Maybe you two can be superheroes, elves, or Yodas. Whatever you choose, remember to take a lot of photos and don’t let them eat the candy!
  • Make Them A Star:  The internet is filled with endearing clips of dogs doing funny things. Filming your dog and editing and posting the content is a chance to express your creativity and sharpen your artistic skills. Let your dog awaken your talents!
  • Come Up With A Game: You don’t have to just play fetch. Come up with a fun game with your pet and reward them with special treats

A Great Way To Meet New People

In 2020, 61% of adults who participated in a research survey reported feeling lonely. A 2019 study showed that 45% of American adults had issues making new companions. Though people are communicating digitally during the pandemic, this sense of isolation has worsened. An AARP Foundation study concluded that two-thirds of adults are experiencing more isolation and anxiety. When you’re out in a public area like a park, beach, or hiking trail, dogs can give you a chance to bond with others. Instantly, you have something in common and can exchange tips about treats, games, and products. If you just moved to a new city, check for meetups for dog owners at a local park. 

Are you single? Including photos of your dog in your dating app profile can also give you something to talk about with romantic prospects. Dog people tend to attract dog people. And walking your dogs together is a chance to see how well everyone gets along. 

Dogs Can Give You Structure  

Dogs are incredibly smart and emotionally astute. However, their routines and needs are often quite simpler than their human companions. They need to be fed everyday, walked, and cleaned up after. When it comes to improving your mental health, this simplicity is an asset. Having structure can help you improve your sleep and reduce your anxiety. Over the course of our lives, we all go through transitional periods like breakups, moving, or changing jobs. Dogs give us consistency in an otherwise uncertain world. 

If you are dealing with mental health issues, you may need to seek help from a professional. Though dogs can help you deal with your mental health, there are a wide range of additional resources and treatments. Next time you see your dog, thank them for all the help they provide and enjoy the moment. The bond between humans and dogs is truly unique and special and according to plenty of scientific research, mutually beneficial.