How Dogs Help You Cope With Mental Illness

Animals have long been used to help provide support for those dealing with medical issues. They can help a person with a vision deficit find their way through a busy store, and they can help calm the nerves of someone suffering from anxiety. Many people wouldn’t be able to get out and mingle socially if they didn’t have their dog with them. If you are considering a furry friend to help you, then here are some health benefits to owning a pooch.

Pets Help to Lower Blood Pressure

You’ve probably heard that owning a hound can help to reduce your blood pressure. Well, there is a scientific fact to back that statement. It’s called the “Pet Effect.” Using 60 people, a study was conducted by the University of Maryland Hospital. They found that when petting a dog for 15-30 minutes, the average person’s blood pressure drops over ten percent.

They Increase Social Connection

Dogs are great icebreakers. Most people love pups, and it can be a great conversation starter. Plus, being in a social situation when you have PTSD or social anxiety can be difficult. Thankfully, having a dog can allow these people to be in public and feel secure. A dog’s senses are far beyond the capability of a human. They can see and hear things that we cannot. So to the person with PTSD, having someone on guard and looking out for them means everything.

They Provide Companionship

Canine friends are used in nursing homes and convalescent centers around the country. The companionship that they provide to the lonely is unparalleled. Dogs love unconditionally. They are great for people who don’t have family and friends to occupy their time. They are a living, breathing being that stays close by your side.

Dogs Give A Sense of Purpose

Many people who suffer from depression, PTSD, and other anxiety conditions may feel that their life lacks purpose. Even those with empty nest syndrome after their children grow up and move away have found that a pooch can help fill the void. A dog can replace that sense of purpose. Parents often feel like they need to nurture and take care of someone since they have done it for more than 18 years. A canine can provide a reason to get up in the morning.

When considering adding a pup to your family, you should know that they can help with loneliness, depression, stress-related disorders, and companionship. Dogs can lower blood pressure and make you feel calmer. A canine companion might be just what the doctor ordered.

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5 Ways Owning a Dog Improves Your Mental Health

It is well known that dogs are the ultimate companions. They offer friendship and comfort to children and adults alike. But dogs can also have a positive impact on your mental health. Particularly for those with PTSD, dogs can provide emotional support and reduce loneliness. Here are five ways that owning a dog can improve your mental health:

Dogs Can Decrease Stress and Anxiety

When feeling anxious or overwhelmed, petting your dog can relax you. The repetitive motion of stroking the dog’s fur and focusing on the rhythm can recenter your thinking and provide a calming influence. Oxytocin is also released when you connect with your pet, which reduces cortisol levels and reduces anxiety and stress.

Dogs Get You Out of the House

It is common for those struggling with depression, anxiety or PTSD to isolate themselves and to avoid leaving the house. However, a dog needs its owner to take him out for walks or for play. This exercise releases endorphins, which increases positive feelings and reduce sensations of pain. Even the exposure to sunshine and fresh air can improve stress levels and depression symptoms.

Dogs Will Listen to You

It can be embarrassing or overwhelming to discuss feelings of depression or anxiety with friends or family for fear of judgment. Dogs, however, offer a sympathetic and unbiased ear, and provide love and comfort regardless of what their owner has to say. Talking through problems or concerns with your dog can have therapeutic effects that positively impact mental health symptoms.

Dogs Provide You With Purpose

When bombarded with anxious and negative thoughts, it can be hard to find value in everyday life. The act of caring for a dog provides an owner with purpose and responsibility, which has been shown to improve mental health. Feeding the dog, taking him outside and playing with him allows for a positive focus on your mental and emotional energy.

Dogs Bring You Joy

Dogs are playful and eager by nature, which can be contagious. Whether playing throw and catch or snuggling on the couch, happy moments with your dog can increase serotonin levels. Serotonin helps to regulate mood, improve your sense of wellbeing, and keep depression at bay.

Training might seem a bit daunting at first, but there are plenty of resources available to help you out! While owning a dog will not cure mental illness, caring for and spending time with your dog can make a positive impact. The everyday routines of walking, playing with, and engaging with your dog can increase neurotransmitters that boost your mood and improve your mental health.

References:

How Dogs Can Help Combat Vets with PTSD | Low VA Rates

What Dogs Teach Us about Peace, Joy, and Living in the Now | Tiny Buddha

Forget the Treadmill. Get a Dog. | The New York Times