Stress tends to make its way into every person’s life at one point or another, and for some, stress is a constant companion. You may have tried every stress-reliever in the book, such as yoga, meditation, and medication, but are you aware that there might be another option?
This alternative has four legs, a wagging tail, and a wet nose. A DOG. In this article, we are going to have a look at how having a dog can help significantly reduce your stress levels.
The Correlation Between Dog Ownership and Stress Relief
The Importance of Reducing Stress
It is not uncommon to get so used to being stressed that you no longer realize how stressed you are, and this can have devastating effects on your health. By successfully reducing stress, you are likely to notice feeling more motivated and less irritable, which could lead to improvements in your relationships as well as your work-related relationships.
Stress tends to interfere with sleeping patterns, and by reducing stress, you are likely to sleep much better than before and finally get the rest you need to improve productivity in your everyday life.
How Having a Dog Can Help
A dog might not be the first thing that comes to mind when trying to reduce stress and become a happier person, but sharing your home with a furry friend can sometimes be the ultimate solution. That said, having a dog can also be difficult and especially in the beginning, but the long-term effects are proving to be surprisingly stress-relieving.
According to the NIH News in Health, pets in general often have a calming effect on humans, and even swimming fish can help reduce stress in some individuals. A dog, however, offers a few additional benefits like promoting physical activity and movement, which could also benefit those trying to lose weight and become healthier.
To better understand how a dog can help you unwind and why their presence is likely to improve your overall life quality, we are going to have a look at 10 of the ways in which having a dog can help reduce daily stress.
1. Boosts Your Mood
Studies have shown that those who own a dog or another pet smile more often, compared to those without pets. Dogs tend to provoke smiles with their silly behavior, their happy demeanor, or simply with the way they look at their human family members – often making it impossible not to smile.
Smiling releases serotonin in the body, along with endorphins that are known as natural pain killers, which means it is not a coincidence that having a dog can make you feel happier and more content.
According to an article in the Washington Post, it is believed that the hormone oxytocin might also have a significant impact when it comes to why dogs seem to make people feel happier.
2. Promotes Physical Exercise
Physical exercise is crucial when it comes to mental well-being, which is why many people turn to activities like yoga and spinning when trying to destress and feel better. The problem with these activities is that when you feel stressed, motivation isn’t usually there, and many people don’t follow through with their physical exercise commitments.
A dog, on the other hand, needs to be walked daily. It is easy to say no to a trip to the gym or a spinning class, but how do you say no to those big puppy eyes looking up at you? Dogs know when it is time to go for a walk, and they will be there to remind you to get out the door for some fresh air and an opportunity to clear your mind. Having a dog can motivate you to exercise more and to get out a few minutes every day.
3. Prevents Feelings of Abandonment
Stress and social isolation often go hand in hand, and many people tend to withdraw from social situations when they are feeling stressed. With a dog by your side, you are never really alone, and you have that reassurance that someone will always love you unconditionally.
When you feel like nobody is there for you or when you experience a lack of support from others, this can cause stress and distress, which a dog can directly combat.
4. Regulates Blood Pressure
There are many medications designed to regulate blood pressure, but while some are great for lowering blood pressure and others for getting the blood pressure up – there are few that can successfully prevent blood pressure spikes as well as a dog.
Petting, hugging, or in any way touching a dog (or another animal) has been indicated to have an impressive effect on blood pressure stability. Great improvement in nursing home patients has been registered when introducing regular visits by therapy dogs, and owning a dog appears to have a similar effect when it comes to controlling blood pressure.
5. Provides Social Support
Walking a dog and going to the dog park is a great way to improve your social life! That furry little friend is the perfect conversation starter, and sometimes, having a little chat with other dog owners can be all it takes to relax before or after a stressful day at work.
Dog ownership also makes you an automatic part of a community, where you can talk to others via social media to share thoughts, concerns, and ideas. This will help take your mind off what stresses you out and expand your social circle in the most unexpected ways.
Individuals that are shy or socially uncomfortable, report having been helped by having a dog for support.
Dogs Live In the Now
One of the biggest differences between a dog and a human is that a dog does not worry about the past or the future. Dogs live in the present, and they forgive easily even when let down or hurt.
As a dog owner, this provides a valuable lesson, and it can be beneficial to observe how dogs see the world and to try and learn from it. Yes, there are things worth worrying about and things that need to be planned, but sometimes it’s okay to disconnect and enjoy the moment, just like dogs do.
Take Away Thoughts
Stress is a serious health problem, both in the United States and across the globe, but research shows significant signs of stress reduction in people who own dogs.
Not only does dog ownership allows redirecting your thoughts from what has you stressed, but it can also greatly benefit your physical- as well as your mental wellbeing.
Having a dog is, of course, not a magical solution, as there is no one-fits-all when it comes to reducing stress. If you feel you could offer a dog a meaningful life, then that dog could likely offer you the same, along with healthy (and daily) stress-reduction.