Anyone who has ever taken care of a furry friend knows it changes you. There is a particular connection you form that is unique from your human relationships. But what is going on inside your mind when you raise an animal?
Let’s talk about the true influence a dog can have on your life. It might surprise you how deep this bond truly goes.
Reduced chances of mental illness
Certain trained animals can help their owners overcome anxiety, depression, and more. Dogs certified through an institution like servicedogregistration.org can even have the training necessary to help those who have PTSD.
Trained service dogs (and other animals!) can help their owners have better relationships and an easier time navigating social situations. When entering a new stressful situation, it is always easier to have a friend by your side who won’t leave no matter what happens. People suffering from social anxiety report more success when meeting new people when they have a dog to break the ice.
But even non-trained animals can provide various mental health benefits. Their presence helps increase sleep quality, lower blood pressure, and improve overall wellbeing – all of which naturally combat depression and anxiety.
Increased movement and blood circulation
Exercise is a crucial way to increase your brainpower. When you exercise, your blood starts flowing, which causes the brain to form new connections. These new neural pathways are what keep your mind quick and nimble.
Having a pet means there is no way around getting constant exercise. Your dog will need to go out on walks several times a day. Without even realizing it, you are giving your mind a workout just as much as your pet.
Breathing in the fresh air, running into friends around the neighborhood, and getting your blood moving all contribute to positive feelings and a healthy lifestyle.
Chemical alterations in your brain
When you sit down after a long day, your dog curls up in your lap, and you start to cuddle and pet her. In that process, oxytocin gets released into your brain. This hormone makes you feel relaxed, calm, and happy. Plus, it is the same hormone released when a mother holds her child. No wonder you feel so close to your best friend.
The more you interact and spend time with your pup, the more oxytocin release occurs. Your oxytocin hormone levels directly relate to how close your human-canine relationship is.
Your dog’s presence also lowers your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a naturally occurring steroid hormone linked with stress and weight gain. Companionship changes the way your brain functions and puts positive feelings before negative ones.
Vital Connections for Both New and Aging Brains
Young children reportedly gain language faster when growing up with a pet. Giving commands is a simple and natural way to associate words with tangible results. When saying “come” yields a puppy tumbling toward you, practicing more words becomes a fun game.
Dementia patients retain memories for longer when living with a therapy dog. Often, loneliness exacerbates symptoms of dementia, so even talking to an animal helps keep the mind sharp and memories intact.
Whether combating mental illness, taking you on walks, or pumping out good hormones; your dog is taking care of you. Adopting a dog might be the best medicine you can buy – no prescription required.
The fascinating psychology of dog ownership is still something researchers are looking to uncover more about with new facts coming to light every day. But you don’t need to read a scientific paper to feel the compassion generated through the bond you have with your dog.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.