Mood-Boosting Power of Having a Furry Best Friend
By Sofia Alves
In times of stress, loneliness and sadness, when some people turn to binge eating, pet owners turn to wet noses and wagging tails. A dog has always been a man’s best friend for a reason.
Positive human-animal interaction can even trigger physiological changes that improve our overall mood and make us happier. Studies have shown that keeping a dog can help fight mood swings, sadness and anxiety, in some cases even mental disorders such as depression, schizophrenia or PTSD.
There are numerous ways in which a four-legged cutie can boost your mood, so our fellow dog lovers at Totally Goldens have summed up the most profound benefits of dog owning for mental health and wellbeing.
DOGS HELP YOU SHAKE OFF ALL THE STRESS AND NEGATIVITY
Have you ever wondered why you feel so fulfilled and in a good mood after a snuggling session with your furry friend?
Many of us remain unaware of the mental benefits of just simply petting and playing with a friendly dog. They are able to understand many of the words we use, but they’re even better at interpreting our tone of voice, body language, and gestures. It’s easy to create a loving relationship with an animal that seems to understand us and even show compassion.
Studies show that these pleasurable actions of showing affection and care for animals reduces stress-related hormones. Amazingly, these benefits can occur after just five minutes of interacting with a pet. On top of that, playing with a dog raises our levels of serotonin and dopamine. These are hormones that calm and relax the nervous system. When we smile and laugh at our pets’ cute behavior, that helps stimulate the release of these “feel-good” hormones.
THERAPY DOGS AND DEALING WITH MENTAL DISORDERS
Keeping a canine pet can provide emotional stability for people suffering from disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
It’s the security, stability and continuity that owning a dog can bring to people dealing with long-term mental disorders. Dogs can provide support in getting to know people, create new friendships and make social support networks, which is very important for those who have difficulty socializing due to their mental disorder.
Similarly, animal-assisted therapy, can help in managing behavioral problems and emotional outbursts that are common in ASD children. A therapy dog is trained to react to restlessness, agitation and anxiety by licking or leaning on the child, showing affection and comforting. Therapy dogs are also taught to lie on the child and apply deep pressure to reduce stress and self-stimulating behaviors. Engaging in play or caressing a dog may shift the child’s focus and divert attention away from negative behavior.
FROM CANINE TO HUMAN FRIENDSHIP
Caring for a dog means going for frequent walks, playing around and being active. This kind of daily responsibility improves the physical health of not only the dog, but the owner as well and can be extremely beneficial for children. Encouraged exercising and playfulness can even improve your cardiovascular health.
When you walk a dog, you come across other dog enthusiasts, engage in conversation and can even make a new friend or a walking buddy. Our pawsome friends are a great conversational topic and people like bonding by talking about them. All in all, it’s a social experience both for the dog and you, that encourages spending more time outdoors and socializing. And what is more mood-boosting than a nice chat with someone who shares the same interests as you do?
Furthermore, there are some research indications that therapy dogs can influence the improvement in social and communicational skills in children suffering from ASD. Studies done on the topic suggest that simple actions like walking a dog, playing fetch, stroking or brushing help ASD children in interpretation of communication clues that are much simpler, repetitive and predictable, unlike verbal. This kind of social interaction improves self-confidence in children as it represents the first step towards more challenging self-expression.
DOGS SIMPLY ENRICH OUR LIVES
From instant mood lifting to long-term change in habits, dogs truly make us take a turn for the better. Taking care of a canine pet triggers many life changes that, at a first glance, don’t seem to be connected with keeping a dog.
For instance, the amount of physical activity can increase with getting a puppy. Dog owners need to take their pets for walks, runs, and hikes regularly. Therefore, owners receive the benefits of exercise. Studies show that dog owners are far more likely to meet recommended daily exercise requirements.
Similarly, walking or playing with a dog gets us outside and to spend more time in nature and in the fresh air. If you enjoy a routine walk in the morning, you’ll also experience the benefits of getting up early and starting your day off positively and energized.
Ultimately, dogs make us not only take up a new responsibility, but also learn how to take care of ourselves. Mental and emotional stability are of great importance for overall wellness and pets can be there for us, almost as natural medication. Instead of a pill, take a daily dose of dog and feel happy and care-free, without any negative side effects.