The number of cases being infected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is continuously rising and so is the distress of individuals. A study has reported that there have been a variety of reasons and situations for feeling anxious and dejected, including disruption from work and life being, individual’s routine, the lockdown, the concern of contacting the virus, limited availability of essentials, or of loved ones being infected. Moreover, the grim news of constant exposure to warnings and chaotic reports via television or social media had also added stress, anxiety, depression and other negative emotions based on the study.
But despite this upsetting phenomenon, there have been a few heartwarming trends, too. As people settled at their home during the quarantine, an unprecedented spike in requests for pet adoptions and foster care from shelters across the US–particularly dogs–have been reported. This sudden boom in foster care and adoptions stems from an apparent reason: The idea of pet companionship has now become more appealing for people during the quarantine. And researchers claim that interaction with pets has led to physiological and psychological benefits. It also releases biochemicals which can enhance the immune system and boost one’s health, improve a person’s well-being and, of course, provide a positive effect on the owner’s mental health. The following further explains how spending time with your dog can boost your mental health.
They Encourage Regular Exercise
It is well-documented that exercise does a lot of benefits to everyone. As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to walk your dog daily. Walking your dog on a regular basis is not only helpful for your pooch but it is also beneficial for you. In fact, your pet can get you to do more exercises than you think. Dogs love to play fetch and you can even strengthen your bond through tug-of-war with the use of tug toys for dogs. Burn some calories while you have fun!
Surprisingly, a nearly 30-minutes walk can already be good for you. A study showed that dog owners walked an average of 22 minutes per day compared to those who don’t own a pet. Further findings revealed that moderate-intensity walking is just as productive as running and helps lower the risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, increase your energy, lower your weight by 5% while your pet’s weight by 15% as well as improve a sense of well-being. It was mentioned that those who own a pet can spend more time outdoors and be in touch with nature, too. This will not only boost your spirit but can also help you to be exposed to the sun– especially if you’re lacking Vitamin D that causes symptoms of depression.
They Improve Your Social Life
Dogs create opportunities for social interaction. And by socializing, we don’t mean the conversations you have with your pooch. If you routinely go out with your dog for a walk, it is likely that you will approach other dog owners as well. In case you don’t know this, dog people are the best. Don’t you just love talking about your dog to other people and how they would also think how adorable your pooch is? It can be possible that through this simple conversation, you will be able to befriend someone because of your dog. Thus, it can improve your mental health since social relationships and friendships lead to plenty of benefits such as better self-esteem, more empathy towards others, and more.
Moreover, for those who are suffering from social anxiety, your dog can also give you the confidence to communicate with another living being. Children who are anxious about reading were set in a program where they will read in front of a dog. Dogs don’t actually care if the child reads slowly or stumbles over a word, they just want to be talked to and receive affection. This is just one of the many social incentives that dogs can offer to humans.
They Relieve Your Stress and Increase Productivity
Dogs can relieve our stress mentally and physically. Mentally, pets have calming demeanors that increase the body’s dopamine production–the chemical responsible for making us happy and calm. By simply watching, stroking your pet, or playing with him through some fun activities for dogs can already reduce the level of cortisol–the stress hormone. That’s why most healthcare facilities would employ animal-assisted therapy for their patients. Even watching fish in an aquarium can also lower stress. No wonder many dental and medical offices often display an aquarium in their waiting room.
Your four-legged friend can also help relieve your stress in your work and improve your productivity. Big companies like Google and other corporate companies are now allowing employees to bring their pets to work. And studies show it resulted in a good working atmosphere in the office, better performance in their task and brought all employees closer together. The sensory act of stroking a dog has also been found to lower blood pressure. This is one way on how dogs can help you relieve stress physically.
They Curb Depression
One byproduct of stress is depression. Loneliness is the foundation of depression. Having a dog can help you reduce this loneliness. By simply talking to and taking care of them can actually lessen the chances of developing depression plus they make us feel less alone. In addition, since dogs need daily feeding and general care, they also give their owner a sense of purpose and ease the feeling of uselessness.
Therefore, doing your responsibility with your dog also allows you to see your self-worth. By taking care of them, you’re already offering an assurance that you can care for another creature and yourself. Depression has no match for the happiness dogs bring to their owner’s life.
They Offer Us Unconditional Love
Of course, the ultimate reason why spending time with your dog can help boost your mental health is because of the unconditional love that they provide for us. Dogs are often accustomed to the mood of their owners. When they see that you’re feeling sad, they often know how to offer extra cuddles and comfort. Moreover, dogs don’t judge no matter how many times you fail or any mistakes you’ve made. They just want to see you and spend time with you no matter what. This kind of affection is good for mental health as it releases dopamine in the brain–the chemical that is also involved in sensing pleasure.
Finally, you should also learn that owning a dog is a lifelong commitment. If you want to have a dog to be your best friend, it’s also important to talk to your doctor first before having a pet. The sad truth about owning a pet is that dogs have limited life. Therefore, you should also know how to withstand his eventual loss. However, most people choose to live in the moment and disregard the future, as what your canine companion teaches you to do.