This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and we wanted to take this opportunity to look at the health benefits of having a furry friend – from companionship to their unconditional love, we know they are great support to so many!
- They give their humans a purpose
In a survey carried out by the Blue Cross, 37% of people said their dog’s help them get through daily life. For some, their four-legged friend is the reason to get up in the morning. The alarm call of a lick on the face, or a gentle bark to let you know that a new day has started and there is so much fun to be had. For those that struggle with their mental wellbeing, having a companion who relies on them for food, water, and exercise, provides them with great purpose. Not only that, but on the days when the outside world seems a daunting place, you don’t have to face it alone; pop on the harness, whip out the lead, and off you go together – a team, a partnership, a furry force of confidence.
- An exercise buddy
The benefits of exercise on our mental health are well reported. Exercise increases alertness and make our mood positive, not only that, but it can also increase self-confidence and reduce anxiety. While that all sounds great, doing this alone can be the hurdle that some just can’t get over. But, if you own a doggy, you won’t be alone. A good stomp in the open air, is great for both of you and will only increase the unbreakable bond you have with each other. You share in experiences along the way and make magical memories on your daily adventures.
- Help you socialise
Socialising can be daunting at the best of times, but a dog can relieve that anxiety. When out and about on walks, you are more likely to stop and chat with other dog owners. You both have the love of dogs as a mutual topic of conversation and one that you will feel comfortable with. And you aren’t on your own, your furry friend is there with you too to help with any anxiety that may arise. In the last 15 months, social isolation has been an issue for so many but people who own a dog felt less isolated than those who didn’t.
- A different type of anti-depressant
Activities that bring both you and your dog happiness releases dopamine and serotonin (neurotransmitters) into the brain. This will naturally increase your mood and have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing.
Bonding exercises with your dog, such as cuddles, a game of fetch, or an enjoyable stomp will also release oxytocin which will also increase your happiness and can often help access an optimistic mindset.
- Your Best Friend
A dog does not mind if you aren’t having the best of days. They aren’t going to judge you if you aren’t feeling too good. They love you for who you are and for the love you show them. It’s been proven that having a cuddle with a dog reduces anxiety and decreases blood pressure, so not only are they good for mental wellbeing, but also for our cardiovascular health too! A dog will also help to remove any feeling of loneliness in those moments of anxiety. They deliver to you, unconditional love always.
While we know our dogs bring us great joy, we also appreciate that sometimes a little more help is needed to ensure that our mental wellbeing is at the best it can be. Twenty Five percent of the population struggles at some point with maintaining their mental health, so please know you are not alone. Speaking to someone can be a great help too. The Samaritans has several ways to contact them so if a telephone call feels difficult, you can email them, or use their self-help app. You can find out more information by visiting the Samaritans website.