Dogs have been man’s best friend for centuries, enhancing our lives and lifting our spirits. While dog owners will confidently agree that life is better with a loyal companion, there is also a wealth of scientific evidence to prove that dogs do indeed improve our mental health.
In honour of World Mental Health Day, we explore the science behind the many ways in which our dogs nourish our lives.
Companionship & Loneliness
Being loved, missed and needed are emotions that we often take for granted as we go about our busy lives. But for many, coming home to an empty house and living without an immediate support network is an unfortunate reality of life. Dogs deliver these in bucket loads, bringing purpose to our lives in a way that many might not have experienced before.
It’s one of the reasons we speak to our dogs as though they are human, well, they are part of our family, after all! Studies show this is proven to soothe loneliness and give us more control in our lives.
Not only that but as our bond deepens, our furry friends often respond with a bark, wagging tail or quizzically cocked head, reaffirming our belief that they do in fact understand and share a mutual connection with us.
Having read human emotions for centuries, dogs have become increasingly sensitive to our non-verbal communications. They recognise a change in our body posture, facial expressions and heart rate. Some scientists also suggest that they can detect changes to our scents that are released with different emotions such as crying.
This level of connection makes dogs great companions, encouraging us to show up each day and embrace our responsibility in such a loyal and safe relationship.
Socialising & Confidence
We all know that getting outdoors does wonders for our health, and having a dog to walk each day is perfect for this. The combination of fresh air, light exercise and immersing ourselves in different environments helps us to feel both physically and mentally better. But there’s no denying that some days we just don’t feel like leaving the house (especially if it’s cold, dark and raining!).
On these days, having the responsibility of a dog that needs walking can be a blessing in disguise. Especially when an otherwise uneventful day could see you and your dog making new friends on your afternoon walk.
In fact, many owners describe their dogs as being great conversation starters. With a common interest already established, it’s easier for some to make dialogue with fellow walkers. These small interactions work wonders for building confidence, especially for those who can find social situations potentially stressful.
Easing Stress, Anxiety & Depression
The combination of human and canine companionship is proven to ease stress, anxiety and depression, and it’s easy to see why.
Their zest for life and seeming ability to live in the moment encourages us to do the same. While their pride in learning a new trick, in turn, gives us a sense of achievement and value. Ultimately, our dogs remind us of what’s truly important.
After spending time with dogs and understanding their life-affirming qualities, many people go on to own their own dog or volunteer. The very act of giving back and rehoming rescue or ex-service dogs are proven to significantly improve our mental health and wellness status; although, it’s important to note that this might not be the right action for everyone.
It’s encouraging to see leading mental health charities continuing to celebrating the positive impacts of dogs in all of our lives. At Butcher’s, we’re huge champions of nourishing our dogs, as we appreciate the many ways in which they nourish us and those we love.
To help us give back, please support our #NourishEveryDog campaign by sharing our hashtag on social media.
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