YES!!! Dogs can improve your mental health.
There are a lot of great reasons to add a dog to your family and they can help improve your mental health. Maybe you want a buddy for outdoor activities, a playmate for your kids, or motivation to get more active. But have you ever considered getting a dog to help your mental health? Research shows that dogs can have a significant impact on our mental health. Don’t believe it? Here’s how a dog could boost your mental wellness.
Dogs Don’t Judge
While stigma surrounding mental illness is decreasing, it’s far from gone. It can be hard to get out when you’re struggling mentally — on top of coping with your symptoms, you’re anxious about what other people will think. Dogs, on the other hand, offer unwavering comfort and companionship and never judge. While it’s not a substitute for human interaction, sometimes there’s nothing better than coming home to a pet that’s always happy to see you.
Dogs Create Routine
Ask any pet owner who lives with depression, and they’ll tell you that some days, the only thing that gets them out of bed is knowing the dog needs to be fed. Keeping routines is incredibly important when you have a mental illness. It’s easy to neglect your health and hygiene when things get tough, but poor self-care only exacerbates mental health problems. Getting up to feed and walk the dog can be enough to create the momentum you need to get through the rest of your day.
Dogs Keep You Social
For people whose mental illness limits their ability to make and sustain relationships, pets provide companionship and diminish the ill effects of social isolation. And that’s hardly the only way that dogs fight isolation: According to Harvard Health, walking the dog serves as a catalyst for meeting people and forming friendships. In fact, pet owners are 60 percent more likely to meet new people in their neighborhood than people who don’t own pets. While walking your own dog can be great fodder for conversation, becoming a dog walker for others can increase your social network even further as it enables deeper connections with your neighbors. Plus, walking dogs is a great way to get exercise and another way to improve your mental health.
Dogs Get You Moving
Exercise improves moods, reduces stress and even boosts your self-esteem. But despite feeling energized and uplifted after the occasional workout, many people fail to make fitness a regular part of their lives. Since dogs require 30 minutes to two hours of exercise every single day, they help keep dog owners active: Reuters reports that dog owners are significantly less sedentary than people without dogs, and dogs motivate their owners to get out and get active even when gloomy weather might otherwise keep them indoors.
Dogs Help Psychiatric Disabilities
You know that dogs can be trained to help people with physical disabilities, but did you know that there are psychiatric service dogs, too? Psychiatric service dogs can be trained to help handlers with disabling conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression. People who can benefit from a support animal but don’t qualify for a psychiatric service dog can get an emotional support animal. While it’s not subject to the same protections as a service dog, an emotional support dog provides certain benefits that pets can’t. There are so many ways dogs improve your mental health.
Dogs are smart, cute, and undeniably fun. But that’s not all they are — dogs can also be powerful tools for people living with mental health conditions. However, that doesn’t mean dogs are for everyone. If you lack the interest or ability to care for a dog properly, adopting a pet or purchasing a service animal might not be the right choice for you.
Learn more reasons why having a good is good for your mental health: WOOF!
Amanda Landry, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Davie, Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org | 954-378-5381