6 Ways Having A Dog Can Boost Your Mental Health & Mood

Dogs are just better! Yes, I said it. People are great, but to me, there is just something very special about a dog. I had a few dogs as pets growing up, and the one thing they all shared was their ability to put me in a good mood just by being around.

It appears that many people share my positive views on dogs, as millions of them are kept as pets all over the world. In the past 40 years or so, researchers have begun to study whether there are any health benefits to dog ownership, or even just being in the presence of dogs. There appear to be a few ways that keeping a dog can benefit your health.

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According to the Center for Disease Control, “Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. Some of the health benefits of having a pet include:

  1. Decreased blood pressure
  2. Decreased cholesterol levels
  3. Decreased triglyceride levels
  4. Decreased feelings of loneliness
  5. Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
  6. Increased opportunities for socialization

So, in addition to improving a person’s mood, being around dogs might have real physical health benefits, specifically on the endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

“Having a dog keeps you more active. Walking your dog can help you meet the daily exercise requirements the government recommends. In one study of more than 5,200 Japanese adults, dog owners were 54% more likely to get the recommended physical activity than non-owners. That extra exercise may be why pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels,” is reported by Harvard Medical School.

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Along with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, having a dog has also been shown to increase a person’s longevity.

Time Magazine reported on this phenomenon this way, “To study the link between dogs and longevity, researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden reviewed national registry records of Swedish men and women, ages 40 to 80. They focused on 3.4 million people who had no history of cardiovascular disease in 2001, and followed their health records—as well as whether they registered as a dog owner—for about 12 years.

Dog ownership registries are mandatory in Sweden, and every visit to a hospital is recorded in a national database. They found that dog owners had a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease than people who did not report owning a dog, as well as a lower risk of death from other causes. That was true even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, body mass index and socioeconomic status.”

So, dogs can lower our blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and increase activity and longevity! If that alone does not make you want to go out and play with some puppies right now, I don’t know if anything will. However, there are even more studies that show additional health benefits. I frequently feel stressed out.

Any type of relief is welcome in my household, so if there is a way to safely regulate my body to increase resiliency, I am very interested. In 2003, a study was conducted to determine whether people interacting with dogs could affect certain hormones and neurotransmitters.

At the Life Sciences Research Institute in South Africa in 2003, scientists sought to find a link between human-animal interaction and neurophysiological changes in humans. The researchers found, “Our results indicate that concentrations of beta-endorphin, oxytocin, prolactin, beta-phenylethylamine, and dopamine increased in both species after positive interspecies interaction, while that of cortisol decreased in the humans only. Indicators of mutual physiological changes during positive interaction between dog lovers and dogs may contribute to a better understanding of the human-animal bond…” Most of these components are implicated in humans’ feelings of happiness, affection, pain-relief, and relaxation.

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In today’s world with so many quick solutions at our fingertips, such as pills, it can be easy to overlook other ways to deal with the struggles of modern life. It was comforting to me to learn that something as simple and pleasant as petting a dog can have so many benefits.

I know that dogs are not for everyone, and they certainly come with their own set of stressors and complications, as any dog owner will attest. However, it appears that even spending a little time now and then with our little furry friends can do the heart, body, and mind some good.

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