This week is Mental Health awareness week and what better companions could we have had to keep our spirits up during this crisis than our four legged friends.
From the moment you wake up they offer you love and affection, warmth and kindness. Before you even have time to reach for your phone to check out the latest news they have leapt onto the bed, making snuffling noises, wagging their tail and willing you to get up. It’s totally irresistible. Even if you were thinking about a lie in, forget it! It’s a lot easier to give in. And as you get ready they will make you laugh as they leap about, getting totally over excited about the prospect of breakfast and that first walk of the day.
That is the wonderful thing about dogs. They just make life better. They make you laugh and they improve your general mood – they are life enhancing. They never wake up in a bad mood. They are always excited about the day and best of all they are pleased to see you. Again and again scientists have proved the many benefits of owning a dog, particularly how they can improve your mental health. Here are some of the reasons why:
1. Dogs make you more positive
Owning a pet definitely gives you a more positive outlook on life. And in these difficult times they can ease depression and anxiousness we might feel about the current situation. Anyone who has watched the Netflix sitcom “The After Life” with Ricky Gervais will know how his characters dog Brandy provides his reason to keep going after his wife dies. Just having the responsibility of owning a dog can give your day more purpose and generally boost your mood.
2. They make you feel totally loved
When you spend time with your dog and when you interact with them cuddling and stroking them it causes the brain to increase its level of oxytocin, a hormone referred to as the cuddle hormone which increases empathy and reduces stress and anxiety making you feel loved. Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you are walking along your dog will up at you with a look of total love. It’s hard to beat!
3. Dogs can lower your stress levels
Not only does stroking and interacting with your dog increase your levels of oxytocin but they also lower your levels of cortisol and lower blood pressure and generally boost your mood. Just having your dog with you when you work at home or in the office can increase the feeling of social support.
4. Dogs help you to become more sociable
All dog owners will know its almost impossible to walk down the street with a dog by your side without sparking a conversation! Once your dog has interacted with another dog then you are bound to exchange a few words with its owner and sometimes these interactions become longer conversations and new friends are made. Your dog feels better and so do you!
5.They keep you active and fit
If you own a dog you simply have to take them for a walk. Most dogs benefit from a couple of walks a day and this not only keeps your dog happy but ensures that you are getting plenty of exercise too. Getting plenty of exercise will naturally improve our mood and just knowing that these walks are a part of your day will make us more cheerful. And if you have an active or a young dog you could take them for a run which will add to the fun.
These are just a few of the ways dogs make our life happy and better. They are a power for the good and we should be grateful to them for the way they have kept us company during these difficult times. Its no accident that there is a current surge in people getting puppies and when they do they will quickly experience the wonderful love and support we receive from our dogs.