There is no doubt our pets bring a sense of joy and happiness to our lives. They positively influence our mental and social health through physiological changes in our body, making us happier and healthier people.
Our mental health can be drastically enhanced by the companionship dogs provide to us. They help reduce the levels of stress and anxiety that we may feel from our everyday lives and can help give us a break from reality. Dogs are also great motivators. Even on our worst days, they encourage us to get up and active with some exercise. Dogs can also act as a source of comfort, with many owners believing their dogs can sense when they’re feeling upset and will try to help cheer them up.
Having a dog can also impact an owner’s social health as well. Studies have shown that dog owners are more extroverted, less lonely and may even have better self-esteem. Whether it may be small gestures such as smiling at a neighbour while walking your dog or meeting new owners at the dog park, our dogs can give us the opportunity to open up and change the social aspect of our lives.
The science behind the physiological effects our dogs have on our health can be easily explained through different levels of stress chemicals in our body. Some chemicals include serotonin, dopamine and cortisol. Both serotonin and dopamine are hormones that regulate mood and are in charge of happiness and pleasure, respectively. On the other hand, cortisol is a hormone that is released when the body senses stress. It causes changes in the body such as increased blood pressure, heart rate and blood glucose levels. Studies have shown that interactions with dogs and puppies causes higher levels of dopamine and serotonin in the body and therefore, results in a better mood. The presence of dogs has also been observed to lower cortisol levels in owners, resulting in less stress and anxiety perceived by the owner.
There are endless numbers of stories that dog owners can share on how their dogs have changed their lives for the better, whether it pertains to their mental health or not. Service dogs and therapy dogs are great examples of how dogs can improve people’s lives or help owners through hard times. Service dogs are trained to assist those suffering from mental health issues such as PTSD, or those who are physically disabled. Therapy dogs are also trained, but provide comfort and attention to people in places such as nursing homes, hospitals and schools. All these dogs work to help improve the mental and physical health of those who are in need of it.
Our dogs live day-to-day without knowing how much they actually influence our lives and health. They provide us with comfort, happiness and unconditional love. They are one of the greatest companions and are truly “a man’s best friend”.