One of the primary ways in which dogs benefit mental health isthrough their ability to reduce stress. Stress is a common issue, particularlydue to societal expectations and the pressure to balance multiple roles, suchas being a parent, a partner, a worker, and a caretaker. Having a dog by theirside can help us cope with the demands of daily life. Petting a dog can lowerthe levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, in the body, and theact of walking a dog can help to clear the mind and provide an opportunity tofocus on the present moment. This can be particularly beneficial for those whoare juggling multiple responsibilities and can find it difficult to switch off.
Dogs also have a therapeutic effect on those who suffer fromdepression. The companionship and love that a dog provides can help tocounteract feelings of loneliness and isolation, which are common symptoms ofdepression. Additionally, taking care of a dog can provide a sense of purpose and meaning, which can help to improve mood and self-esteem. It gives you a purpose to get out of bed each morning and go outside. Getting out in the fresh air forthat first walk of the day starts your day with positive steps. Saying “hello”to people you pass, chatting in the park to other dog owners, can give somecomfort in what could be a lonely day. Forthose who are struggling with depression, the simple act of playing with or spending time with a dog can be a powerful antidote to the feeling of hopelessness that often accompanies this mental health condition. Studies have shown that interacting with a therapy dog can be beneficial for those experiencing depression and may result in improved mood, and a reduction in depression symptoms.
For those suffering with anxiety, dogs can provide a sense of security and protection. Many find comfort in the mere presence of their dog,and the act of petting or cuddling a dog can help to reduce feelings ofanxiety. Additionally, having a dog can help to improve social interactions,which can be beneficial for those with social anxiety. A dog can also be agreat companion for those who prefer to stay home, providing a sense ofcompanionship, even when they don't feel like socialising. There are many psychiatric studies that have reported that dog owners had lower levels of general anxiety disorder compared to non-dog owners, this might be due to the sense of security and comfort they get from having a companion.
Dogs can also promote feelings of happiness and well-being. The simple act of playing with or spending time with a dog can release feel-good chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals can help to improve mood and promote a sense of overall well-being, which can be particularly beneficial for those who are going through difficult times or experiencing stress in their lives. The therapeutic effects of a dog on mental well-being might be explainable by the fact that the bond between human and dog is an emotional one, which can have the power to alleviate feelings ofloneliness, anxiety, and depression.
It's important to note that the benefits of dog ownership vary from person to person, and are contingent on the individual's circumstances and lifestyle. Not everyone has the ability to own a dog due to health, financial,and time constraints. However, even if you don't own a dog, you can still benefit from spending time with them by volunteering at an animal shelter, going to a pet-friendly café, borrowing a dog from a service like Borrow My Doggy or by going onto the Pawshake App, where dog owners pay you to pet sit.