As of last year, 59% of UK households owned pets. 12.5 million of those were dogs and it’s easy to understand why. Not only are they super cute, but their companionship can have a positive impact on overall mental wellbeing.
In celebration of Mental Health Month, let’s take a look at five ways dogs help us feel better:
1. Dogs encourage regular physical activity
Let’s start with the obvious. If you have a dog in the family, you’ll know that daily walks are a part of the package.
The good news is, not only does dog walking keep them in shape (and stop them from chewing up the sofa) but can also increase your energy, self-esteem, mental alertness and mood.
Much like dogs, we humans need regular physical activity to keep us feeling mentally well. So the next time you’re forced to go outside when you really can’t be bothered, give yourself a big push. Both you and your furry friend will be happier and healthier for it. Never underestimate the power of a good walk!
2. Dogs can help you meet new people
Dogs are natural conversation starters. By having one at your side, people will be more likely to start conversations with you. Likewise, you’ll be more likely to initiate conversations with others.
Meeting new people, socialising and developing meaningful connections is said to greatly reduce the risk of depression and other mental health issues.
3. Dogs increase oxytocin levels
Oxytocin, also known as the ‘feel good’ hormone, is released when sensory nerves are activated. In the same way that mothers bond with their babies, interacting with dogs and other pets increases oxytocin levels in the brain and makes you feel calmer.
Created by something as simple as petting a dog, the release of oxytocin can help moderate stress levels.
4. Dogs ease loneliness
For some dog owners, even a trip to the bathroom is a group exercise. Dogs are loyal, affectionate and will follow you everywhere you go. Naturally, having one as a companion will ease the effects of loneliness.
5. Dogs provide structure and routine
7:00 AM - Wake up
7:20 AM - Go for a walk
8:00 AM - Feed the dog
Fulfilling your daily duties and providing all the care your dog needs will give you a sense of purpose. Having a routine can help create and maintain healthy habits and relationships, which can have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing.
Are there any other ways your dog helps you with your mental health? Let us know in the comments below.