If you have a dog, I’m sure you know already that they can immensely improve our mental health. Here are some of the many reasons why:
-Dogs can boost a number of ‘feel good’ chemicals in our brain, including dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. The release of oxytocin is the most empirically supported, with studies showing that humans release oxytocin (the ‘love’ hormone which plays a key role in affection and attachment) when gazing at their dogs. Higher oxytocin levels have the power to help reduce stress and anxiety and increase pro-social behaviors.
-Dogs can create routine for us.
-Dogs can detect cortisol in our sweat and our breath, and particularly attuned pups can respond with affection or alert.
-Dogs can be wonderful conversation openers, and can help reduce social anxiety, create a chance to connect with others and build relationships.
-Dogs can bring levity, humor, and joy to our lives. They live in the present, and when large, frightening situations are threatening us, they can offer a lovely reminder of the here and now.
-Working dogs who assist in the medical setting help make medical procedures feel less scary for kids, literally changing their brain and body’s chemistry and improving their health outcomes.
-Working dogs who assist in being patient ears for young readers help improve self-esteem.
-Working dogs who support brave victims of crimes help provide emotional safety and support during disclosures.
…and the list could go on, and on, and on.
If you have a furry friend, give them an extra pet today, as they may be supporting your health and wellbeing more than you know!