Dogs and Depression: 13 Ways A Dog Can Make You Happier
Want to take better care of your mental and emotional wellbeing and that of your loved ones?
One of the best things you can do, according to science, is bring a dog into your family. This article will explain just why a dog can do wonders for your mental health in more ways than just being a cute and fluffy companion.
1. Dogs can boost our mood
Dogs have a calming effect on us. They can help slow down our breathing and take our mind off the ups and downs of daily life.
For example, imagine you had a rough day at work or school where it’s been just one annoyance after another.
Thankfully, you finally made it home and are ready to decompress from a long, stressful day. You open your door, walk in your house, and — voilà! — your dogs excitedly rush toward you, tails wagging!
At that instant, all you want to do is pet your dog and give them the love they deserve. (Maybe they even give you a little lick on the face in return!) Next thing you know, you’ll find yourself with a big smile on your face and feel a whole lot better.
Coming home to a friend that loves you unconditionally and exactly the way you are can lift anyone’s spirits.
2. Dogs take away stress
When it comes to natural forms of stress release, there aren’t many better options than a smart, loyal dog. Even the Daily Mail agrees that petting your dog is one of the best stress-relieving activities around.
After all, it’s no coincidence that dogs are the most common form of support animal for those with emotional issues, health issues like seizures, or even those with disabilities like blindness.
Coming home to your best friend and playing with them can help you forget about your troubles and focus on the present moment. That’s actually a key reason why even workplaces are making big strides to become dog-friendly!
In fact, a study from the International Journal of Workplace Health Management even show that having dogs in the workplace is an incredible way to reduce stress among employees. It’s even been linked indirectly to weight loss, boosted energy levels and being happier overall.
3. Dogs can make you more empathetic
Sometimes, it can feel like it’s a dog-eat-dog world (no pun intended) where you have to constantly “watch your back.”
While it’s never a bad idea to take time for self-care and to prioritize yourself, it is important to keep in mind the value of empathy in staying connected with others.
That’s where dogs can help you and your family. Scottish researchers have shown that owning dogs “has an important role in children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development, mental health, well-being, and quality of life.”
In fact, having a connection with pets as a kid:
“Encourages children to participate in pet care behaviour may promote attachment between children and their pet, which in turn may have a range of positive outcomes for both children (such as reduced aggression, better well-being, and quality of life) and pets (such as humane treatment).”
It even promotes secure emotional attachments to others.
4. Dogs encourage you to exercise
Recently, Michigan State University released a report that showed 60 percent of dog owners who walk their dogs regularly met the federal criteria for moderate/vigorous exercise. About half of those who walk their dogs reportedly exercised for about 30 minutes on average per day, at least five days per week.
When you compare that to people who don’t own dogs, only about a third of them get exercise that regularly.
And it’s no surprise that people who are physically healthy tend to be mentally healthy as well!
5. Dog owners are happier
Pet ownership is huge part of the American lifestyle, with about 62 percent of homes in America having some type of pet. A study that checked with 167 pet owners and 50 non-pet owners found that those with pets were generally happier, with higher levels of happiness and wellbeing and lower rates of depression.
Pets have even been linked with longer survival for those who suffer from HIV and those who’ve had heart attacks, as well as decreasing the amount of fear and obsessive tendencies of individuals in the study.
Just think how happy you’ll be when see these kind of hilarious moments as a dog owner:6. Dog ownership encourages interaction
Studies show there are even more benefits to getting out and about with your dog, like warding off depression and loneliness.
The University of Portsmouth found links between a better sense of well-being as owning a dog promoted meeting others with mutual interests and left them feeling happier overall.
And if you’re a parent, you might like this finding in the study: Walking a dog encouraged children to go outside and spend less time in front of the television!7. Dogs help us make new friends and improve our social skills
As we get older, sometimes it gets harder to meet new people. Dogs owners, however, don’t seem to have that issue according to a recent study.
Researchers from Australia, the UK, and the US found that as many as 40 percent of dog owners make friends easier, and as many as 4 in 5 talk to new people while taking their dogs out and about.
Also, having a dog encourages you to open up and more outgoing. They’re even known for being sensitive to human emotions and can even tell when someone is untrustworthy.
And if that wasn’t enough, science even suggests dog ownership can boost your self-esteem!8. Dogs show you unconditional love
There are fewer things in this world purer than the unconditional love of a pet towards its owner: Your dog loves you with all of its heart. They don’t have opinions, critiques, or criticism of you — they’re just there to lend a paw and be there for you.
A recent Johns Hopkins Depression & Anxiety Bulletin mentioned recent studies that showed nursing home residents benefited from and felt less lonely when they spent time alone with a dog. And more specifically, the group who had alone-time with their doggies — instead of sharing the dog with other residents — felt far less lonely!
This suggests the time we spend with our four-legged friends gives us a warm companion and gives us a chances to share our thoughts without being criticized.9. Dogs make you feel safer
While dogs make an excellent companion, they’re also fantastic protectors for you, your loved ones, and your home. In a recent Guardian article, 12 former burglars revealed barking dogs deterred them from breaking into a house.
But it makes sense! Dogs are a great home security system, tipping you off whenever there’s suspicious activity at night. And even if an intruder does happen to gets in, your dog is going to do whatever it can to defend you — no burglar or home invader wants to be on the toothy end of an angry dog!
It’s hard to feel happy and healthy when you’re scared. But the incredible sense of security from a dog, it’ll give you a great peace of mind and help you sleep a lot better at night.10. Dogs can lower your blood pressure
Studies have shown that petting your dog can help lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and even boost levels of serotonin and dopamine level in your brain.
(What a great coincidence! If there’s one thing a dog can never get enough of, it’s pets from their owners!)
Blood pressure drops especially when people pet dogs they know and love. And while dog petting can even improve immune system health and relieve pain, just being around dogs can offer benefits.
It’s no surprise dogs are linked to better cardiovascular health!11. Dogs promote the healing power of touch
It’s no secret: Touch can help us feel a lot better.
Think about the last time you had a really relaxing and rejuvenating massage. Well, the science breaks down why!
Reserachers from the famed Cedars-Sinai Medical Center found that 45-minute massages can reduce stress hormones and boost your immune system by increasing white blood cells.
In fact, science even suggests the benefits of things as simple as a hug or just holding hands. With that said, you can see just why petting your furry friend and help heal your body and improve your health.12. Dogs make us feel more responsible
If there’s one thing in the world that puts everything into perspective, it’s having another living thing that relies on you for everything. (Ask anyone with children and they’ll agree!)
Studies show that getting yourself a dog is a great way to make yourself more responsible. Suddenly, you’re responsible for feeding, walking and loving your dog. And having your loving pet gives you a reason to get out of bed on your lowest, saddest day.
You have someone who relies on you for everything and, in return, gives you nothing but love and affection whenever you need it.13. Dogs can help us find meaning and purpose in life
Whether you’re retired or even busy with a full-time job, sometimes it’s hard to find a strong sense of purpose or meaning. One great — and loving — way to add structure and direction every day is by bringing a dog into your life.
According to Kristi Littrell, Adoption Manager at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah:
“They force people to continue to do things. So, even if you’re not feeling well emotionally or physically, the dog doesn’t care. I mean, they care, but they still want you to feed them and take them for a walk.”
With a dog, it can help you avoid loneliness and isolation: Instead of focusing only on your needs, it motivates you to do things and take care of your best friend.
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We’re a family of small, independent breeders who raise all of our puppies on our own. We give each puppy the love, healthcare, and attentiveness they need, and we even play with them daily so they grow up happy and healthy.
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