You probably already have a sense that kicking it with your dog does your mood some good. After a hard day, there’s something about snuggling up with your four-legged family member.
But you might be wondering about the science behind it all. If you need a reason to justify dog ownership or you’re just a naturally curious person, we’ve got you covered. Here are five of the mental health benefits you get from owning a dog.
#1: Stress reduction
It’s probably the most obvious perk of owning a dog: they’re the ultimate stress buster. Your hound doesn’t understand the troubles at work or the fight you had with your friend. And they don’t need to.
A solid play or pet session can help you refocus on what matters most and reduce feelings of stress. In fact, Johns Hopkins Medicine says that just petting a dog can reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Quick note: While your pup can be a huge help after a stressful day, try not to make a habit of coming home tense. Studies show that dogs mirror our stress levels.
#2: More mindfulness
Your dog never seems worried about the embarrassing tumble they took yesterday or tomorrow’s play date. They’re taking in the moment as it unfolds, engaging with sights, sounds, and smells as they come to them.
We can take a page from their book, dropping into the moment. Enjoying time with your dog serves as an invitation to be more mindful. Taking your dog for a walk gives you the chance to practice more present-mindedness and take in the sights around you, for example. And that ultimately supports your overall mental wellbeing.
#3: Less loneliness
Having a dog at home can help fight loneliness in two ways. First, your pet provides you with companionship from the second you walk through the door.
Secondly, though, dogs also give you a chance to socialize with other humans. If you’ve been wanting to make new friends, try hitting your local dog park. Go often enough and you’ll start to recognize some familiar faces. And since people love talking about their pets, you’ll have an easy icebreaker topic, too.
#4: Reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety
While dogs aren’t a cure-all for mental health conditions, they can help to moderate your symptoms. That’s because playing with your pooch releases oxytocin and dopamine.
Oxytocin is commonly called the love hormone, and it’s the neurotransmitter that helps mothers bond to their babies.
Dopamine gets called the happy chemical, and it plays a role in our ability to feel like something is rewarding and pleasurable.
Basically, if you want a way to give your brain more of what will make it feel good, dogs deliver.
#5: Physical health boost
We know, we know. We’re focused on mental health here, so it might seem out of left field to talk about dog ownership’s physical health perks. But the two can go hand-in-hand. A healthier body — and especially an active one — can support a healthier mind.
Fortunately, your pup can help you stay physically healthy. Daily walks give you ample opportunities to get moving. Beyond that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that having a pet can lower your levels of:
- Blood pressure
- Triglycerides (the fat in your blood)
Long story short, the experts — including the American Psychological Association — agree that dogs are good for our mental health. So reach over and give your pooch a pet or reward them with a King Lou Super Treat. They deserve it.