This week is mental health awareness week.
Pets, including dogs and cats, can provide companionship, comfort and purpose. These all help towards positive mental health. Dogs, especially, help to reduce stress and anxiety and alleviate loneliness. They also encourage exercise and generally improve quality of life. Here we explore the benefits and impact of dogs and our mental health.
Dogs helping with depression
Being able to stroke and feel a dogs warmth will provide mental health and physical benefits. This will fulfil the basic human need for touch. It will also assist with relaxation and calmness of the mind. People with depression benefit from increased exercise. Getting out for a walk with your dog regularly is a great opportunity to exercise. It also gives time to connect with nature and try some “mindfulness”. In addition, having a pet who needs feeding, walking etc will provide a structure of routine and a positive focus.
Meeting people through dogs
Many a dog owner will tell you how people will stop to fuss their dog, such is the nation’s love for the four legged friend. Owning a dog and taking it for a walk will open up more opportunities for social interaction with other dog owners or just dog lovers. If you feel withdrawn and unconnected to society, a chat with a stranger who smiles and talks about your dog can help with positive mental health by lifting your mood and helping you feel more connected.
Getting a dog if you are lonely
The obvious benefit of getting dog if you are lonely is that you will have a companion. This companion will love you unconditionally which can have a massively positive impact to ease loneliness. The daily presence and touch of your dog will fulfil basic human needs for contact, warmth and company. Having a dog may also then encourage and facilitate social interaction and conversations when out for walks.
Dogs, autism and ADHD
Autism is not a mental health condition. However, autistic people are more likely to develop mental health problems. Assistance dogs for children and adults with autism lower stress levels, promote calmness and improve communication and confidence levels.
Pets provide a calming support to humans and have been perceived to have a ‘sense’ of when it is needed. Dogs are known to have a positive impact on mental health. Have you ever had that feeling that your dog just knows? It is like they are able to provide unique emotional support because of their intuition towards their owners. Read more about some research and The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems here.
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