You probably already know the joy and affection a dog can bring to your life. You can’t argue with the fact that they are fun to have around. However, you might not be aware of the powerful benefits dogs can have on your physical and mental health, decreasing your stress levels and improving your overall wellness. Here are a few ways dogs lend a helping paw in improving our mental health.
A dog’s love is unconditional. They won’t judge you. They won’t make a million seemingly dead-end suggestions about how you should live your life or fix your problems. They are simply there for you. Having such a dedicated friend around can combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. Although dogs can’t respond in human terms, many people find it helpful to talk to their dogs, even working through specific troubles they might be experiencing.
For many people who suffer from anxiety and depression, the routines you create with your dog can provide a sense of stability in your day-to-day life. This includes things like feeding them in the morning and night, taking regular walks, making time for play, and snuggling up on the couch at the end of a long day.
While some of these activities might seem like chores, they could make a huge difference in your life. For example, someone suffering from depression might struggle to get out of bed in the morning. Yet when your furry friend is staring up at you, wagging his tail, that morning walk can work as a motivator to take the first step forward, providing momentum for the rest of your day.
Shifting Your Focus
If your mind keeps turning to stressful thoughts and emotions, it’s easy to get caught up in a vicious cycle of anxiety. Taking care of your dog’s needs can help you to focus on something outside of yourself, which can be a great relief. Over time, this can help you naturally move away from destructive thought patterns.
Despite all good intentions, many of us have a difficult time sticking to personal fitness goals. Fortunately, dogs make great workout partners. While spending half an hour playing fetch or going on a walk might not result in some major transformation in your physique, any excuse to go outside and get your body moving will help relieve stress and improve your overall health.
You may be surprised at how much you actually accomplish without specifically planning to work out. When you pair your dog’s playtimes with digital tools like fitness tracking apps, you can see a better picture of your overall health, which can help prevent harmful conditions from developing and motivate you to keep going.
Pairing with Therapy
While dogs can help relieve stress and anxiety conditions on their own, they can also work well in complementing treatment plans for those who seek professional counselling. This can help the general population, although there are specific groups which stand to reap significant benefits from dog therapy.
For example, military veterans struggling with emotional issues like post-traumatic stress disorder may not always feel comfortable talking with a professional about their mental health. However, dogs offer such a straightforward and trusting affection, which can help relieve the extreme anxiety a veteran might be experiencing. This can be a major first step in responding to a traumatic experience and adjusting back to civilian life.
A dog can be a close friend, a reason to get out of bed, a healthy distraction from stressful thoughts, a workout buddy, and a major aid to any self-care plan. Your dog can’t solve every emotional problem you have, and it would be unfair to depend totally on them for that kind of support. However, acknowledging the benefits they provide to your emotional and physical health will help you to better appreciate the ways they improve your life.
How does your dog help you with your mental health?