But there is another addition to a list of family members who can help make you feel better. A dog.
Dogs have been shown to provide many mental health benefits for humans, including reducing stress and anxiety levels. In fact, a study published in the journal “PLoS One” found that owning a dog can even help to improve mental health, happiness, and social connectedness.
While it’s well-known that dogs can provide physical health benefits, research is now demonstrating that they can also play a significant role in our emotional well-being. Positive interactions with a dog may help to reduce an individual’s stress and tension.
According to research, dog owners have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood compared to non-dog owners.
Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and improve your all-around health. People with dogs have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop heart disease. Playing with dogs has been shown to elevate oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive feelings and bonding for both the person and their pet.
So whether you like to snuggle with your pooch or take a walk together, the relaxing effects can have a positive health impact.
Dogs give you a shoulder to lean on
Just as importantly, dogs can provide companionship and support during difficult times. For many, having a pet, particularly a canine companion, can be a great source of comfort in times of loneliness. In a study published in the journal “PLoS One”, it was found that people who had dogs in the years leading up to a major life event, such as divorce or bereavement, were more likely to report higher well-being afterward than those who did not own a pet.
A dog gives you a sense of responsibility and purpose
A life without a purpose is a recipe for anxiety and depression. Dogs help bring meaning and purpose to what would otherwise be an overwhelming boring, sedentary and meaningless life.
Taking care of a pet, whether it’s feeding or walking a dog or cleaning out a rabbit hutch, can help give us meaning and purpose in our day-to-day lives, and can provide us with a lot of mental health benefits. Since most dogs are action buddies, they force us to consistently exercise with them, which in turn helps us to be in sync with our mind-body state.
Dogs make you a social person
While on walks or at the dog park, which can alleviate the loneliness you feel, dogs also give you a reason to talk to new people. Dogs are conversation starters. They provide an avenue for approaching another person socially. This is important because face-to-face social contact has been shown to reduce the risk of depression.
In addition to making you a social person, dogs also improve your trustworthiness. The presence of pets makes people seem more trustworthy, research has found. People are more likely to help a stranger with a dog than one without.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, consider talking to your doctor about whether adding a dog or other pet to your environment could help you to improve your health and wellbeing.
While it’s important to be mindful of your own health when considering adding a dog to your life, it’s also vital to consider the health and well-being of your pet too.