How Dogs Can Improve Your Mental Health

It’s no secret that cute and cuddly dogs give most of us warm fuzzies. But did you know these furry friends can help your mental health? Here are four ways dogs (and most pets in general) can positively contribute to your emotional wellbeing.

Dogs Reduce Stress Hormones

Studies show dogs reduce stress, ease loneliness, encourage exercise, and improve your all-around health. Just playing with dogs has been shown to elevate oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive feelings for both the person and their pet. These benefits can occur after just five minutes of interacting with a pet, which can be immensely helpful for individuals dealing with anxiety.

Dogs Encourage Time in Nature

Dogs need exercise, and most of them prefer to do this outside (or so my dog tells me). You will earn the many mental health benefits of being outdoors on a regular basis, too. Exercise also increases endorphins, which fight depression. As a triple bonus, this consistency in your schedule can help reduce stress levels and lead to better sleep patterns and overall better wellbeing.

Dogs Stimulate Socialization and Self-Worth

How often do you walk past a dog on the street without interacting with it? (Me? Zero times). Dogs give you a reason to talk to new people while on walks or at the dog park, alleviating any social isolation or loneliness you might be feeling. Face-to-face interaction with others has been shown to ease symptoms of sadness or depression.

Having a furry companion can also prevent symptoms from worsening, especially therapy and service dogs who are in tune with your needs. Caring for an animal helps you find purpose, makes you feel wanted, and can take focus away from depression. This responsibility helps your mental health because it offers reassurance that you can care for another creature and yourself.

Dogs Provide Unconditional Love

Dogs love their owners unconditionally. They don’t care how much money you make, and they don’t judge you. They are always happy, greeting you at the door with a wagging tail to let you know how glad they are that you’re home! And they want to spend time with you, no matter what. This kind of unconditional love is good for mental health. It stimulates the brain to release dopamine, the chemical involved in sensing pleasure.

Not Ready for the Commitment? Volunteer!

Dogs can be a lot to handle, but if you can’t quite commit or afford one, spend a morning playing with them to catch all the feels described above, or to gauge if you’re ready to own a pet.

Check out all the action we captured at a recent volunteer event at the Arizona Humane Society