October is National Adopt-a-Dog month. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals about 3.3 million dogs end up in shelters each year. While each of those dogs are in need of love and a good home, they also have SO much to offer.
Studies report that people, with a dog for a pet, end up being both healthier and happier. A survey conducted by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute discovered that 74% of pet owners found having a pet improved their mental health.
Why is that?
Dogs are naturally happy, living in the moment and when we are around them, we are happier too. Our happiness is not the only thing that improves. According to neuropsychologist, Dr. Sanam Hafeez, PSY.D., petting a dog causes the brain to release serotonin and dopamine which improve mood, social skills, sleep, memory, and feelings of peace and pleasure.
A dog can ease loneliness and provide the comfort of someone always being there. Dogs are the most common therapy animal as they bond naturally with people. Dogs visit hospitals and medical facilities to bring hope and companionship. Owners bring their dogs to libraries to listen to and encourage young struggling readers. A dog makes a great friend.
Those with depression will often withdraw from others, but a dog for a friend creates a natural way to get to know people and build friendships. A dog makes a perfect conversation starter, especially among other dog-lovers.
Some studies also indicate that dog owners have increased trust and better relationships with their family members.
According to Dr. Marian Rissenberg, PH.D. people are “hardwired to bond with other beings who are dependent on us and appreciate of our care.” Rissenberg explains that while interacting with a dog the brain sends oxytocin through the body, triggering loving feelings.
Dogs also offer unconditional love and it is easy to return that kind of affection. Prisoners who have spent time interacting with pets show long-term changes in their behavior after receiving affection and companionship from a pet.
Having a dog helps stabilize the heart rate and reduce cortisol levels, which helps prevent stress and anxiety. Increased oxytocin production also eases stress and fear. Sandra Barker, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University, pointed out that studies indicate even brief interactions with a dog lowers blood pressure and eases anxiety and fear.
Psychologist Perpetua Neo, PHD reported that animals sense when owners are distressed and offer comfort. Studies show that dogs are able to recognize facial expressions, read body language, and understand emotions through tone of voice and looking into our eyes. Touch is a basic human need and petting and interacting with a loving animal lowers the blood pressure and is calming.
A Sense of Purpose
People dealing with depression often feel a sense of worthlessness and apathy, while the need to care for a pet may provide purpose and routine. A dog-owner is more likely to practice healthy lifestyle choices when trying to make sure their dog gets the exercise it needs. Going for a walk outside increases vitamin D levels, improves physical and mental health, and provides a stronger self-esteem.
Pain and Illness Relief
Surveys among those dealing with severe depression show that pain is lessened after spending time with a therapy dog.
Dog owners also get sick less often. Pet owners over the age of 65 make 30% fewer doctor visits than those who do not have a pet in their lives. The healthy habits that comes from having a pet ease symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, dipolar disorder, and PTSD.
The Best Dog to Help with Depression
Studies indicate that all dogs offer the benefits that treat depression symptoms. When choosing a canine friend, it is best to take into account your lifestyle and environment and select a dog that will adapt well to your circumstances. It is good to consider the dog’s size and energy levels. Take note of your home environment and schedule. A high energy dog does not work well in an apartment alone for extended lengths of time.
If you or someone you love are dealing with depression, owning a dog can definitely help! Dogs offer unconditional love and company, wonderful health benefits, and encourage healthy lifestyle changes.
This October, during National Adopt-a-Dog month, consider welcoming a canine friend into your life or take some time to show some extra appreciation to your pets for the many benefits they bring into your life.
And now through October 31, 2020, save $10 off 2 Mental Health products with code 10OFF2.
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Robinson, K. M. (2017, December 04). How Pets Help Manage Depression. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/pets-depression#1
Robinson, L. (2020, September). The Health and Mood-Boosting Benefits of Pets. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/mood-boosting-power-of-dogs.htm
Staff, P. E. (2020, May 07). How A Dog Can Help With Depression. Retrieved from https://powerfulpatients.org/2020/04/29/how-a-dog-can-help-with-depression/
Wylde, K. (2020, September 18). How Getting A Dog Changes Your Brain, According To Neuropsychologists. Retrieved from https://www.bustle.com/wellness/how-getting-dog-changes-brain-neuropsychologists