For the majority of people, the day-to-day experience means dealing with stressful clients, endless hurdles, and tons and tons of problems to be solved. All of which take their toll on your mental health and overall well being. While there are myriad great solutions out there to reduce stress levels, one of the most effective is to get yourself a pet—preferably a pooch.
Here’s the brutal truth: Pets play a major role in the human experience. We eat with them, interact with them, and even play around the park with them when we are looking for a little fun. However, what most of us don’t realize is that animals like cows, pigs, and sheep are not only a form of nourishment and sustenance but others like cats and dogs also help us emotionally and psychologically too. Case in point: man’s best friend.
Truth be told, much has been written about the human-animal bond and the many benefits that having a little pooch can bring your way. But did you know that there’s a positive correlation between puppies and your mental health? Well, absurd as it may sound, there’s certainly no denying that having a pet can greatly improve
- What Does Academia Say?
- The Power of Assisted Therapy
- They Give You Love and Affection
- They Make You Feel More Sociable
- PupsHelp Reduce Stress Levels
- They Increase Your Sense of Self-esteem
- They Help You Live in the Moment
- They Help You Practice Healthy Habits
- They Help Support Recovery from Mental Illness
- They Help Treat PTSD Patients
- They Provide You with a Positive Outlook
- They Lessen Allergies and Asthma and Build Your Immunity
- Symptoms Related to Mental or Emotional Disabilities
What Does Academia Say?
According to a Harris survey conducted in 2015, a little over 90 percent of pet owners think of their pets as part of the family and somehow find joy in their pets. And I agree. I mean, think about it: how many times has your mood instantly changed on seeing your furry friend? You are home from work, and you had a stressful day. But once you see your little chunk of fur, you instantly have a smile on your face.
Your guess is probably the same as mine: countless.
Moreover, research validates the impact of having a pet has on your mental health. Not to mention the fact that they provide companionship, ease loneliness, bring us joy, and offer unconditional love—all of which are essential ingredients for a wholesome life.
In this guide, we hope to demystify cover how puppies can improve your mental health and why it’s not such a bad idea to get yourself one.
But first, here’s a sneak peek into research done on the impact pets have on your mental health.
Aaron Katcher published the earliest research on the impact that pets have on your mental healthKatcher, a Psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania and Psychologist, Alan Beck, of Purdue University about 30 years ago. They have established what exactly happens to the body when people pet their pets and found that:
- Breathing became more regular as a result
- Blood pressure went down considerably
- Muscle tension decreased
- Heart rate slowed down
All of which helped reduce stress in the said individuals substantially.
The Power of Assisted Therapy
What is animal-assisted therapy?
The short answer it that is the use of certified therapy animals, or therapy dogs, as part of therapy. It is a significant part of treatment for people who are cognitively, physically, emotionally, or socially challenged including patients in nursing homes and hospitals.
Although a seemingly new term, animal-assisted therapy has roots that date back to the ancient Greeks where they used animals to elevate the spirits of those who were ailing. From then on, physicians were reported to have been using horses and other farm animals to improve their patient’s mental and physical health. In the 1940s, for instance, farm animals were also used as a form of therapy for veterans who were suffering from illness or injury—and it seemed to work. Being around farm animals helped put their minds on something else other than war which helped put their minds at ease.
Since then, more and more discoveries have been made about the undeniable bond between mental health and pets, and consequently, animal-assisted therapy has become an almost integral part of mental health treatment.
However, with a pooch, you can experience pet therapy every single day. Below are ten ways your little puppy can help improve your mental health.
They Give You Love and Affection
According to studies, when you pet your puppy, your stress and anxiety levels dip and a feel-good chemical called oxytocin are released promoting an attachment to your pup, simultaneously reducing the production of the stress hormone cortisol. This attachment other than being a foundational element for relationships also has the power to take you out of hopelessness and allow you to see a new hope, and bring you to the light side so to speak.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Friends and family can be equally as supportive when you are going through a rough patch. However, the primal connection that you have with your canine friend, coupled with the fact that they don’t pile up on your stresses but instead shower you with expressions of affection is incomparable. As a matter of fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the simplicity of the connection between you and your canine friend is what makes pups have such a positive impact on your mental health. Not to mention the fact that puppies don’t come with half the drama, politics, insecurities, or other draining forces that people can sometimes bring with them, which means less stress and a reduced risk of anxiety or depression.
Whichever way you look at it, regardless of whether it’s the daily walks around the neighborhood or occasional play sessions out in the yard, your pup will almost always find an excuse to get you to exercise. And the best part about it is that anything is better than you staying cooked up in your thoughts and your world of depression. Furthermore, exercise also helps increase your endorphins, fight anxiety, lower blood pressure, and fight depression.
I know this will sound crazy, but your little furry friend might be just what you need to alleviate the pain of anxiety and depression. Think about it. You need to feed, walk, and care for your pooch which makes you feel needed and helpful. You feel important and a sense of want that is overwhelming. This sense of being needed helps re-anchor you in place and gives you a sense of purpose which alleviates your anxiety and depression.
They Make You Feel More Sociable
There’s a common misconception that you can get away with being a loner simply because you are constantly having the time of your life with your pooch, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, having a pooch is almost like having a magnet that attracts people toward you. For some reason, people seem to trust you more when you have a pet with you. And almost everyone wants to have a one-off chat with you about all things dog-related or any other topic that basically comes up. In short, it’s the perfect icebreaker for most people to start off a conversation. And the more you are chatting with other people and avoiding your lonely cocoon, the better the chances you have to lower anxiety, depression, and other stresses of life—even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.
PupsHelp Reduce Stress Levels
I know this will sound a little crazy but having a puppy is like having your own personal psychiatrist only without all the hefty fees you have to pay. All you have to do is chat with them, and you’ll feel more relieved. In fact, according to research carried out at Buffalo University in New York, pet owners reacted less to stress and anxiety when their pets were present. And that’s not the last of it. People with high blood pressure and seriously stressful jobs seem to improve significantly once they get a furry friend. Currently, dogs can become certified as official therapy dogs, allowing them to enter public institutions, transportation, and even planes. In general, all mammals experience a rise in the happiness hormone oxytocin and a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol while having skin-to-skin contact with others, and with the
They Increase Your Sense of Self-esteem
Recently, psychologists at Saint Louis University and Miami University conducted experiments on the benefits of pet ownership, and this is what they found:
- You become more courageous
- You are less lonely
- Your sense of self-esteem is uplifted
- You become more conscientious and less preoccupied
In the first experiment, researchers studied the personality type and well being of 217 individuals and, from the deductions, pet owners were healthier and better adjusted than those who didn’t own pets.
In the second experiment, researchers studied 56 dog owners and their feelings about their pets, and a majority reported that their pooches increased their sense of belonging and self-esteem.
Additionally, a third study showed that having a puppy can help adolescents take rejection better. I don’t need to tell you how big of a deal rejection can be to teenagers going through the adolescent stage. Sometimes, if they don’t have an outlet, they can often result in drastic measures including secluding themselves. Having a pet that is constantly offering the kind of unconditional love, they long for at that stage helps reassure them and give them a new awakening, not to mention it also gives them the strength they need to deal with rejection.
They Help You Live in the Moment
We do it all the time. We get wrapped up in our thoughts and worries and forget to enjoy the moment and live it. Dogs always live in the moment. They don’t worry about what’s for breakfast or dinner or where they’ll sleep or how they’ll get by the day. They are free spirits that enjoy every minute as it comes. If you are around your pooch long enough, you’ll also learn to live in the moment and enjoy things as they come. You’ll also learn the importance of letting nature take its course.
They Help You Practice Healthy Habits
Pets need a lot of care and attention. And, in the midst of giving them that much-needed care, it also in a way helps you build healthy routines.
- Getting up in the morning
If you are a pup owner, then I don’t have to tell you that one of the most important things you need to do is feed him. And, being that pups eat on a regular basis, you’ll have to wake up early to ensure that your furry friend eats his breakfast on time. This, in essence, means that you’ll have a reason to get up and start your day.
- Physical activity
As a dog owner, you’ll need to take your pooch out for runs, walks, and hikes on a regular basis. Therefore, you will also get to enjoy the benefits of exercise in the process.
- Pet care supports self-care
Caring for your dog also encourages you to take better care of yourself. For instance, while ensuring that you are taking care of his grooming and health needs, you’ll also remember the importance of taking better care of your health.
- Time in nature
Having a pooch makes you get out a lot. Whether its just for a run or an evening walk, you’ll need to get outside and, as a result, you can get to relish all the benefits of being outdoors.
They Help Support Recovery from Mental Illness
Pets are extremely helpful for people recovering from mental illness as they are an excellent source of emotional support. They help patients manage their emotions and, in a way, distract them from their condition. Plus, dogs and pets in general also give patients a sense of identity and self-worth which boosts their confidence and increases their will to get better. In fact, according to Dr. Helen Brooks, pets provide a unique form of validation by providing you with unconditional support.
They Help Treat PTSD Patients
If you have ever survived any trauma, say an assault or a car accident, then you are probably aware of what Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is. And, although seemingly a minor condition to most people, the truth is it interferes with the functioning of the brain and disorients the patient leaving them with all manner of conditions including nightmares, anxiety attacks, and aggression.
And while there are tons of great ways to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, one of the most effective and hailed solutions is to find yourself a pup. Most psychologists suggest that having a pooch can help distract you from the trauma and help you recover more quickly.
They Provide You with a Positive Outlook
Dogs are generally very active creatures, and so naturally they’ll make you go out more often. They engage you and keep you busy in various ways and soon enough no matter how bad of a day you were having, you get a sense of peace, satisfaction, and emotional support as a result. Moreover, spending time with your puppy also helps you reflect on things and develop a positive outlook on things even though things aren’t going as you’d envisioned.
They Lessen Allergies and Asthma and Build Your Immunity
This may sound counterintuitive especially considering that our canine companions have a lot of fur, but people who live with dogs and pets, in general, are actually less likely to develop common allergies.
Symptoms Related to Mental or Emotional Disabilities
- Feeling anxious and depressed for longer than a day
- Trouble interacting with others
- Experiencing difficulty maintaining relationships with other people
- Developing irrational fears and paranoia
Raising a puppy is, without doubt, involving. And, the truth is, it can take a toll on you. However, welcoming a new pup to your home can also be a blessing in disguise especially on the mental health front. You’re sure to benefit a lot from having your four-legged little pup if you’ve had a rough patch. There’s just one thing you need to do, ensure that you take good care of your little furry friend and leave the rest to your pup.