How Dogs Can Improve Mental Health
Studies show that dogs can improve mental health, reduce loneliness and depression and even trigger similar neural pathways as the parent-baby bond.
The Canine Calming Effect
The canine calming effect is truly unique.
Researchers have increasingly recognized the therapeutic value of our relationship with pets, particularly dogs. These therapeutic effects can often be attributed to social recognition which play a key role in mental health. Social recognition is the process of identifying someone else as being significant and important to you. Without these social bonds, we can become lonely, depressed and mentally and physically unwell. Dogs, as it seems, can fulfill that role and be a lifeline for individuals feeling isolated.
It’s no surprise that 98% of pet owners consider their pet to be a member of the family.
If you’ve ever called your dog ‘your baby,’ it’s because we recognize him or her on the same neural level, triggering the same maternal bond that a mother forms with her child. In fact, a study of functional MRI brain scans in over a dozen women displayed similar responses in regions involved in reward, emotion and affiliation when they looked at images of their child and pet dog.
How does that happen? Researchers believe it is related to the surge of oxytocin, the neurotransmitter that exists in all mammals and fills a mother with love when she sees her baby.
Improving Mental Health with the Dog Effect
Dogs don’t just lift our mood, they can improve our mental health. In fact, as seen in a HABRI poll of physicians, 74 percent said that they would consider prescribing a pet for their patients' overall health. That's because your canine companion can provide emotional support.
Today, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals are practicing social distancing and self-quarantining to help “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the virus. This self isolation, however, can take a toll on mental (and physical) health. The company of dogs may ease negative mental health impacts and provide comfort for those going through challenging times like this.
It is clear that dogs have a magical effect on their owners. There are endless reasons why pets and therapy dogs are good for our mental health.
Weather the Storm with Your Dog
Adults and children alike can benefit from playing with dogs, which can provide a source of stimulation for the body and brain and act as a source of relaxation and calmness. And, don’t forget about all the benefits that come from exercising your dog, too. Daily walks outside provide the opportunity to refocus mental energy on something positive and add structure and routine to your day. Having a consistent exercise routine with your dog can boost physical and emotional wellbeing —a welcome relief at a time like this.
Take Care of the One Who Takes Care of You
If you’ve ever owned a dog, you know the happiness that they can provide. But remember, dogs can experience stress, too. Read more on the 10 Signs of Stress in Dogs (And How To Help Your Pet) >>
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