How Dogs Help Improve Our Mental Health And Well-being

Researchers have confirmed what humans have known since the Stone Age: caring for and living with a pet dramatically improves our mental and physical health.

For example, did you know that people with pets are less likely to be afflicted with depression or high blood pressure? It’s true! And dog owners who suffer heart attacks are more likely to survive longer than those that don’t.

Here’s another eye-popping statistic: seniors over 65 who live with animals visit doctors 30 percent less than their pet-free peers – that’s incredible!

So what’s the deal? Are cats and dogs undercover Hogwarts graduates skilled in the healing arts? Do they perform magic cures and spells on us while we’re sound asleep?

Not quite, but their presence in our lives makes a huge difference for the better. Let’s focus on dogs and take a look at four reasons why living with one is a boon for your health and well-being.

Walking Your Dog Is Great For Your Health

Unlike cats, dogs go outside to take care of their “business” — an activity which usually involves a walk –  a human-facilitated doggie bathroom stroll.

Regular walks aren’t just a biological imperative for dogs, they’re also a great way to get human owners off the couch, outside and into the fresh air.

Doctors are always touting the benefits of light but consistent exercise. It aids in maintaining a healthy weight, lifts our mood, improves energy levels, enhances brain function and reduces overall body pain. What’s not to love about light exercise?

So all benefits considered, going for daily walks with our best furry friends is one of the healthiest additions you can introduce into your life.

And it’s also great for your pooch. After all, they need to exercise too!

Pets Bring Structure And Routine To Your Life

The verdict is in: routines are good for our physical and mental well-being. Schedules allow our brains to relax, which reduces stress and establishes the ideal mental arena to learn, grow and prosper.

Scientists and sociologists consistently tout the upsides of sticking to a positive, life-affirming schedule. The evidence is strong, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that shaping your life around healthy daily habits is the path to happiness and success.

And guess what? Living with a pet is a great way to establish beneficial daily habits.

Pet ownership forces you into a state of responsibility. Daily feedings, walks, and playtime force you to create a plan and stick to it.

And like the parents of newborns, most people fall madly in love with their four-legged pals almost instantaneously. Just one look and you want to give that bundle of fluff everything he (or she) wants and needs, and more.

Brutus likes to eat breakfast around 6:00 a.m., so you’re up at 5:55 a.m. every morning to make sure that happens for him. And because she is overjoyed to see you walk through the door after work, Molly loves a good 10-minute play session — which you do, every day, despite being dead tired from a day of navigating office politics.

Sometimes these responsibilities can feel demanding, but they’re oh-so-good for you. They provide a framework on which you can hang the rest of your life. And that leads to better health, wealth and well-being.

Plus, there’s a cherry on top: establishing a daily routine helps your dog as much as it does you – they also thrive and behave better with a consistent schedule.

Pets Boost Endorphins

Endorphins are naturally occurring chemicals that reduce pain and stress in our bodies. Dopamine is a cerebral hormone that aids in creating pleasurable feelings and moods. When both compounds are plentiful and operating at peak capacity, we feel great!

Oxytocin — also known as “the cuddle hormone” — is another natural peptide that plays a role in human bonding.

People who don’t produce enough dopamine or endorphins may take medicines to amplify their production, or they may try natural ways of improving their levels of these important hormones.

That’s where dogs come in. Studies show that humans’ endorphin and dopamine levels rise when interacting with a canine companion, especially when petting or playing.

Moreover, when we lovingly interact with our dogs, oxytocin is released.  In fact, human-dog interactions elicit the same type of oxytocin positive feedback loop as seen between mothers and their infants!

Think about how awesome that is: pets have the power to increase the amount of natural “feel-good drugs” in our bodies! So if you want to chase away the blues, consider welcoming a new canine addition into your life. The positive impact on your life will be immeasurable.

Dogs Provide Companionship and Purpose

We’re happier when we have company — and thankfully it doesn’t have to be human company. After all, we humans are filled with opinions and judgments that we insist on spewing when nobody asks. Let’s face it: we all have our moments.

That’s why pets are so precious and make for super company. They have personalities too, but they’re not always nit-picking other people, spreading negativity, or passing judgment.

Instead, they are just eager companions who see use as the center of their universes. As cheesy as it may sound, a dog’s love is a divine feeling that does much to heal the soul.

First-time pet owners are almost always shocked to discover their new fur babies’ expressive and individualistic personalities.

And while dogs may sometimes act out with a rebellious pee or an act of minor destruction, they rank at the top of the pet companionship ladder — because dogs are loyal and loving and they seem to naturally know what to do when you need cheering up.

Pets also give us purpose. They’re our housemates and best friends — our confidants and adopted kids. They give us a reason to live. And when we have a sense of purpose, we feel better! It drastically improves our mental health and physical well-being.

A Note About Responsible Pet Parenting

Welcoming a pet into your life is serious business. Like humans, they require hygienic places to live, food to eat, time, attention, doctors’ visits, grooming gear, and maybe even clothing, depending on the personality of your four-paw.

And this all costs time and money.

So before committing, sit down and ask yourself: Am I truly ready to handle this responsibility? Can I afford to keep a dog fed and up-to-date on his or her shots? Can I dedicate time to them each day, or is my life filled with too many distractions and responsibilities? Am I really going to wake up 30 minutes earlier in the morning for walks — regardless if it is snowing, raining, or sleeting?

When mulling over these questions, don’t deceive yourself. Be brutally honest. If you’re still at a point in life where you like to “party” and are drinking with the gang three or four nights a week, you may want to wait until you’ve settled down.

If you’re working 6 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. six days a week, again, dog parenting may not be the best option at this point.

If you’re uncertain, sign up to become a dog foster parent. The experience will allow you to live with a four-legged friend for a limited time to see if it’s for you. While fostering, some people discover that they’re lives just aren’t built for a dog — and that’s OK! It’s better to realize you’re not ready before making a commitment that might be difficult to get out of.

Living with a dog is a better way of life for both of you. So if you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to welcome a new fur-friend home — and you have the space and means to care for them properly — give it a go.

Spoil them with affection, feed them the best dog food, and indulge in lots of playtime and treats. In return, you’ll receive a heart and soul upgrade — literally!

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