5 Ways a Dog Will Benefit Your Mental Health
For those of us living with mental illness, we understand that life will occasionally become overwhelming. We sometimes feel trapped in our own heads, and we’re desperate to find an escape from our own thoughts. And because of that, effective coping skills have become an essential part of our lives.
There are many ways you can help yourself when you’re struggling. You might use recommendations from your doctor or therapist, take medication, participate in art therapy, journal regularly, use relaxation techniques, exercise, etc. You might also find it comforting to talk about your feelings and confide in your loved ones. It’s important to take the time to try various techniques to find what comforts you, helps you relax, and feel more like yourself. Unfortunately, there’s no one easy solution.
1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental health issues every year, and more than half of us face high levels of stress at some point in our lives. It would be great if there were a quick fix that worked for everyone, but it simply doesn’t work that way. Trial and error is what we’re left with.
One thing you might not have considered yet is the benefits of owning a dog. Not a dog lover? Bear with me for just a minute. I know it seems a little odd at first, but pets–particularly dogs–can be exceptionally healing. No, they don’t possess magic powers and poop rainbows, but the emotional support they provide is very comforting..
Dogs do take work and require care from you, but even if you’re completely unfamiliar with how to care for a dog, there are lots of resources out there and dog owners tend to share tips and tricks just like parents do.
I’m partial to small dogs. I own two; one is a Shih Tzu and one is a Shih Tzu-Yorkie mix so I’m a bit biased. They’re adorable, they’re poop is small (bonus), and they don’t shed! Anyway, just like you do with anything else, you can turn to various websites and resources to learn how to care for a Yorkie puppy–or whatever other kind of puppy you choose. The information available is endless.
When you are struggling with your mental health, the idea of taking care of something else might seem overwhelming. I get it. Trust me. My depression and anxiety have become overwhelming and all-consuming a lot over the last 20 years. But, believe it or not, having a dog can begin to force you out of your comfort zone and help you feel better. They can have a massively positive effect on your mental health. Here’s a look at how.
A dog’s love is unconditional. No matter what, they’ll be there for you with their sweet puppy eyes and more kisses than any human really needs. They won’t judge you, they’ll listen to you for hours at a time, and they’re always super excited to see you when you come home–even if you just went out to get the mail.
You’ll Never Be Alone
Loneliness is a common cause of mental health problems and isolation can become dangerous, particularly for those with depression and social anxiety. But, it’s something we all experience in our lifetimes. Being alone can be tough. Especially when you’ve got a lot going on and need someone to talk to. Owning a dog means you will never be at home alone. There’s always someone waiting for you. Something that needs you, loves you, and desperately wants to see you.
They’ll Never Share Your Secrets
If you’ve never had a dog before, you probably find it hard to imagine sharing your secrets with one. I know it sounds goofy. But, you’ll soon discover you are talking to them all of the time. And, the best thing? They’ll never tell anyone else. You’ve got a new friend and confidant to share your worries with.
They’ll Get You Outside
Going outdoors, getting some vitamin D, and exercise have amazing and proven benefits for your mental health. But, when you are struggling it’s often the last thing that you want to do. Your dog will need walking. They will force you to get out more. You’ll get some exercise, and you’re bound to meet other dog owners. Try visiting a dog park. Your little one will be in doggy heaven and it’s nearly impossible to go to a dog park without meeting another dog parents.
When you are feeling agitated and trapped in your head, it can be hard to settle and relax. The simple act of sitting with your dog, cuddling, and stroking them can help you calm down, relax, and get some rest.
Owning a dog may not be your first thought when it comes to comforting tools and techniques, but there are certainly benefits to owning one (or three). If you don’t already have a furry family member, it may be time to consider it!
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