By Cindy Aldridge with ourdogfriends.org
Dogs are Good for Our Health
Most pet lovers will tell you their animals are part of the family. They look forward to time with their pets and know a cat’s purr or a dog’s wagging tail will bring a smile. Science is proving having an animal in your life not only cheers you up, it can actually improve your mental health.
How pets help. According to some experts, there are lots of benefits in making pets part of your family. Here are some of the ways companion animals are proven to be good for your mental health:
Petting or grooming your furry friend can generate a release of the feel-good chemical oxytocin in your brain. This simple and pleasurable action can also lower your blood pressure and reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
Occupies your mind
Your companion animal brings you into the moment and engages you, while at the same time taking your thoughts away from your troubles.
Pets are wonderful companions and can be sensitive to your moods. If you’re feeling blue, your furry friend may offer snuggles, bring you a favorite toy, or just be present with a listening ear.
Your furry friend will allow you to unload about your day’s events, listen while you proofread an important email, or let you talk about your weakest moments.
With as little as one hour per week, interacting with pets can reduce negative emotions such as sadness and anger.
No matter what, Fido or Fifi will accept and care for you day in and day out, regardless of your successes or failures in the human world.
Having a pet can improve your social life. Going to a dog park, grooming salon or on a hike provides opportunities for conversation and casual interaction with other people. Sometimes, great friendships or romances can begin over a bag of dog food (that your pup eats, of course) or talking about harnesses.
Dogs especially can keep you more physically active. Going for walks or tossing a ball around is good for both of you. Being more active can help you feel stronger and healthier, reducing your risk for mental health issues.
Vitamin C, the “sunshine vitamin,” helps fight depression, heart disease, cancer and obesity. Just getting into nature can make you feel better and offers opportunities to savor sensory input, like leaves rustling, a breeze on your face and grass under your feet.
Our furry friends’ roles. The Los Angeles Times reports that pets are so good for your well-being that science is making great use of our bond with these special friends.
The evidence that pets are good for your mental and physical health is so strong, some therapists are using companion animals in their programs. NPR notes that there is an “increasing use of animals — dogs and cats mostly, but also birds, fish and even horses — in settings ranging from hospitals and nursing homes to schools, jails and mental institutions.”
Pets are helping Alzheimer’s patients to reduce levels of agitation and cancer patients to enjoy lowered anxiety. According to Time, all major children’s hospitals now incorporate pet therapy into their programs.
With the reduction of stress levels, warm connection, increased relaxation and feel-good chemicals, pets are becoming a go-to for addiction recovery programs. Pet owners in recovery also benefit from the responsibility and healthy routine that animals encourage.
There is no cure for PTSD, but Psychology Today explains that dogs are effective in therapies which alleviate veterans’ symptoms. Regardless of whether the dog is large, small, fluffy or coarse, the healing benefits are generous and consistent.
Pets boost your well-being. Most pet lovers know that having an animal to come home to makes them feel better. Science proves there are lots of great ways animals can improve your well-being, so much so that they are becoming vital partners in health and medical care.
About the Author:
Cindy Aldridge is the creator of OurDogFriends.org, a website advocating for the love and ownership of dogs. She believes that dogs truly are our best friends and wants to see fewer dogs in shelters and more in loving homes.