How Canines Improve your Mental Health and Well-Being

It has long been said that a dog is man’s best friend. We have yet to hear anyone argue on the contrary. But how do dogs improve one’s mental health and well-being? Other than being ridiculously cute, of course. Studies* have shown that having a dog helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. By having the constant canine companion, going for regular walks, and being outdoors, we are fulfilling basic needs to keep our endorphins leaping up for joy! Not to mention the human interaction and socialization we get when we take our pups outdoors on walks, hikes, to the coffee shop, or anywhere. While the attention is primarily on your dog, you get the benefit of conversation and having someone else absolutely adore the pup you chose to bring home. Further, the simple act of petting a dog releases serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. While playing with your dog releases oxytocin and dopamine – which leads to stronger bonding. It is with the release of all of these hormones, coupled with the physical activity, that having a dog can lower one’s blood pressure and will make you less likely to develop heart disease – the heart loves that!! As for our mental health, when we are responsible for another being and are ultimately caring for another AND ourselves, we feel accomplished and our self-esteem rises. Can it possibly get any better?

*National Alliance on Mental Illness