Dogs are amazing and we all know that, but what a lot of people don’t know is how connected our mental health is with theirs.
Negativity effects mental health in a myriad of ways, and so many mental challenges and disorders are exacerbated today, especially since the pandemic.
Improving our mental health through dogs has a greater impact than most would believe.
As the world speeds up, it becomes more important to be reminded of the simple experience of being alive and the feelings of unconditional love and happiness. A dog has the ability to make us feel an array of emotions within seconds, and it is these feelings that we must harness for our own well-being.
It is an essential experience of life. Dogs lives need to exist so we do.
Owning a dog has so many benefits for both you and your furry friend, but one of the most important ones might be how it helps improve your mental health!
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How dogs can improve our mental health?
It’s no secret that our mental health is under attack. From the constant barrage of news and social media, to the increasing demands of work and family life, it’s more important than ever to take care of our mental wellbeing.
Improving our mental health through dogs are one of the few things that can help us forget our troubles and just enjoy being alive. They bring us joy in an instant, and remind us what’s really important.
According to a 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, about 67% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to about 84.9 million homes. Of those surveyed, 36.5% of respondents own a dog.
Dogs are the most popular pet in the United States, and for good reason! They provide us with companionship, love, and support—especially when it comes to our mental health.
The Health Benefits of Dog Ownership
Pets can offer more to their people than simply companionship. A Harvard study suggests that they might also assist in generating human-to-human friendships and social support, both of which are beneficial to long-term health.
Being healthy is not being a statistic, and with an estimated 32% of all deaths worldwide are due to heart disease, and there may not be a more enjoyable way to improve our cardiovascular health than dog ownership.
The Journal Circulation found that dog owners had a significantly lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t own dogs. In fact, the study found that dog ownership was associated with a 24% reduction in all-cause mortality and a 65% reduction in mortality due to cardiovascular disease.
Psychology Today found that dog owners had lower levels of anxiety and depression than those who didn’t own dogs. The study also found that dog owners reported higher levels of self-esteem and self-compassion than non-dog owners.
The bond between humans and their dogs can help reduce stress anxiety and promote positive emotions like happiness and affection.
Another study published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2016 found that dog ownership could help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in people who suffer from mental health disorders like Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).
The study found that participants who owned dogs had lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) than those who didn’t own dogs. In addition, the participants who owned dogs also had higher levels of oxytocin (the “love hormone”), which can help reduce stress and promote bonding.
Life can be stressful. From work and family obligations to managing our finances and everything in between, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When we’re feeling stressed or anxious, our dogs are always there for us, providing us with the emotional support we need to get through tough times.
There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that having a dog may have a beneficial influence on our mental well-being. This influence is also seen in our day-to-day life.
Developing Healthy Habits with Dogs
In addition to reducing stress and promoting positive emotions, owning a dog can also help you develop healthy habits like getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet.
Studies have shown that dog owners are more likely to meet the recommended daily amount of physical activity than those who don’t own dogs. This is because structured walking or running with your dog is a great way to get some exercise while spending time with your furry friend.
Another benefit of owning a dog is that they can help you eat healthier meals. This is because feeding your dog healthy food is important for their overall health—and what you feed your dog can actually have an impact on your own health as well.
Let’s face it, we all can’t help look at those faces and not give them some of our food. If we are eating healthier, our brains and our dogs are going to benefit from good nutrition.
Research suggests that diet and exercise play a role in our mental wellbeing. Did you know that what we eat can have an impact on our mental health? Many mental disorders are made worse by poor nutrition.
Dogs heal humans
Dogs aren’t the only ones who can benefit from therapy–humans do too. Dogs make great therapists because they’re good listeners and they won’t judge you or talk back.
Pet Therapy is a type of therapy that uses animals to help people cope with mental and physical health problems. A psychiatric assistance dog (PAD) is a service dog that is trained to assist its handler (owner) who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.
One study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that dog ownership was associated with a lower risk of developing psychiatric disorders, including anxiety and mood disorders. The study also found that dog owners were less likely to experience symptoms of depression than those who didn’t own dogs.
Again, being unable to reach the difficult-to-reach segments of the population is one of the most significant healthcare pain point challenges, and having dogs provide the service that our healthcare providers may not be able to is incredibly beneficial.
Even an interesting study, such as using therapy dogs in the emergency department setting, can be a novel and effective concept.
Implementing Technology for Mental Health
While there are many benefits to owning a dog, not everyone is able or willing to do so. Fortunately, there are other ways to get the same benefits of pet ownership without actually owning a pet through the use of technology.
For example, some companies are now offering employees the opportunity to take breaks during the day to walk a dog, and many cities have dog-walking services that can be hired on an as-needed basis.
There are now apps that allow you to “adopt” a virtual pet, which can provide you with the same benefits as owning a real pet.
Due to the limits in general physical interactions, virtual animal interaction has recently become a popular choice as an alternative. A mixed reality-based interaction may just be a solution for those that don’t currently have one.
Dog owners report feeling more connected to their communities and less isolated than those who do not own dogs, so seeing further technology exploration will only add value to this great endeavor.
With all of these benefits, it’s no wonder that so many people choose to own dogs. However, not everyone is able or willing to do so. That’s why it’s important to expand technologies and adoption efforts to ensure that people our benefiting from dog ownership with mental and physical health. By doing so, we can make sure that everyone has the chance to experience the joys of dog ownership.
Last point of importance
By getting a dog, you’re not only making your life better, but you’re also helping out an animal in need. Dogs provide love and companionship, which are essential for a healthy mind and body. So why not adopt a dog today?
There are many benefits to owning a dog—especially when it comes to our mental health. Dogs provide us with companionship, love, and support when we need it most. They also help us reduce stress, anxiety and depression and promote positive emotions like happiness and affection.
In addition, dogs can help us develop healthy habits like getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet. So if you’re looking for a furry friend to add to your family, consider getting a dog!