1. Lowers stress
Interacting with a friendly dog reduces levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), as well increasing the release of oxytocin which is a chemical in the body that reduces stress naturally. The benefits can occur after just five minutes of interacting with a dog!
2. Social connection
Another way dogs are able to support our mental health is by supporting our social connection. An example would be bumping into someone whilst walking the dog and having a conversation. This makes us feel less isolated and more socially connected. The benefits of social connection include:
- Improved cognitive function
- More empathy and feelings of trust towards others
- Better self-esteem
- Lower rates of anxiety and depression
- Happier and more optimistic
3. Dogs make us feel needed
Caring for another life gives us a sense of purpose and meaning which makes us feel more needed and wanted.
4. Dogs help us build healthy habits
Physical activity: Dogs need to be taken for exercise regularly which means owners receive the benefits of this too. Studies show that dog owners are far more likely to meet recommended daily exercise requirements.
Time in the outdoors: Walking a dog gets us outside which means that dog owners experience the many mental health benefits of being outdoors.
Getting up in the morning: Dogs of course need feeding on a regular schedule which means having to get up to take care of them – they give us a reason to start our day!
5. Last but not least… dogs give us unconditional love!
Dogs are simply happy to see their owners. This kind of love is incredibly beneficial for our mental health as it stimulates the brain to release dopamine, the chemical involved in sensing pleasure.