What if optimal health included squeaky toys, a stuffed squirrel and dehydrated liver?
Cringe (or laugh) if you will, but these three things come part and parcel with one of the keys to relieving what ails you: a dog, Canis domesticus, man’s best friend.
Yes, there’s pretty compelling evidence out there supporting the notion that having a furry, fun-loving companion can alleviate symptoms of heart disease and high blood pressure, ease anxiety and depression, and even help with weight loss.
How so, you ask?
The number one way this happens is via stress reduction. Playing with or petting a dog can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin, and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol. These hormonal changes can help someone who’s nervous or anxious feel more relaxed.
Of course, reducing stress benefits physical health, too. In a 2001 study, researchers found that pet-owning patients with high blood pressure could keep their blood pressure lower during times of mental stress than patients without pets.
Let’s look even closer at mental and physical health and what fido provides.
Unconditional Love & Companionship
The relationship with a dog is largely uncomplicated. They love you for being you and for simply hanging out with them. Your dog doesn’t judge or give advice you don’t want. He or she allows you be alone without really being alone. There’s something about a living presence, that’s not a person, that lets you be you without being totally alone.
Responsibility & Routine
Experts say having a little bit of responsibility, even when it might feel tough, is beneficial. It can give you a sense of value and importance. Plus, the routine of feeding and the exercise that a dog requires can help you keep your own life on track.
Companionship & Touch
Dogs typically love to be pet and scratched and cared for. As mentioned earlier, this simple action releases oxytocin into our bloodstream, the hormone that modulates connection (and reduces stress hormones). This connection can ease feelings of anxiety and even lower your heart rate.
Activity & Social Interaction
A dog will get you out and about. They force you to immerse in the great outdoors and get you moving. Movement and light exercise can help you lose weight and are prescribed for nearly every condition by every doctor. Now you can think of your dog as your own mini GP.
Furthermore, dogs are natural ice breakers. Many lovely conversations have been had by the masses while watching dogs at play. Heck, if you’re dog’s super cute, you might even get a date out of it!
So, if you’re interested in finding your own fido, consult a professional like a vet or dog trainer to see what type of dog would suit your lifestyle. And do check out the plethora of animal shelters and SPCAs. Adopting can be very fulfilling and it seems saving a furry life just may save your own!
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