Did you know that there is more to furry friends than just their cuteness and retrieving abilities? I am sure every pet owner would agree that hanging out with them makes us feel better. Those big brown beady eyes and wagging tails that greet you at the door after a stressful day at work can instantly make you feel calmer. Or when they curl up next to you when you go for a Netflix marathon will immediately make you feel a strong bond with them.
How My Dog Saved My Mental Health
The pandemic has taken its toll on all of us in many ways- health concerns, job loss, emotional trauma, social isolation, and even the loss of a loved one. We have gone through something really stressful and pet parents have turned to their furry friends for more than basic companionship.
Here are five ways my dog saved my mental health.
- Dogs minimize depression: If you’ve been following me for long, you’d know that Mufasa and I are living with my parents for the last two years since the husband is away, guarding the frontiers. Though I am fortunate to have the company of Mum and Dad, along with my baby sister, there are times that I feel overwhelmed. I miss my husband a great deal lot and the constant worry about the future doesn’t help.
There are times when even the little things set me off so much. My friend didn’t text me back and I cried. Accidentally coming across a photograph from two years ago made me cry. For Heaven’s sake.
But the companionship Muffy gives me is the best way to ward off the loneliness I feel. Therapy dogs exist for a reason!
The simple act of feeding a dog itself seems like a pleasant distraction from mental health concerns.
In an Australian study of 199 patients with mental health conditions ranging from depression to PTSD, 94% reported a reduction of anxiety after petting a dog.
- Dogs help develop a routine: Muffy and I have a routine set for ourselves. He wakes up at 7 every morning and he has to go for a walk and do his business, while I wait for him to get back to start his grooming. Soon after he heads back inside and looks at his treat bowl so that I can fill it up. In the evenings, we go for a long walk where he sniffs out all the cats, chases them until it climbs up the tree. We play a game of fetch too. He knows exactly when his daily walk or weekly bath comes up and it’s a treat to find him jumping with joy whenever I take his leash or towels out.
These little things matter a lot as it gives some sense of regularity to my life too. When we are stuck in a room working from home, one day can blend into another, and having these routines helps us keep track of each day.
- Dogs make us active: As I mentioned before, taking your dog for a quick jog or stroll is a great way to get your body moving too. They simply don’t tolerate sitting around all day long. According to Time Magazine, dog owners take 2,760 more steps on an average day than non-dog owners — and those steps make a difference.
- Dogs are good for your heart: No, literally. Studies have shown that even small interactions with dogs cause the human brain to produce something called the cuddle chemical or oxytocin, which is a hormone. This hormone increases feelings of relaxation, trust, and empathy while reducing stress and anxiety. Dogs are also tied to other feel-good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins (also released during exercise) and are linked to a reduction in anxiety, depression, and negative moods.
Another study shows that human-dog interaction, like petting or touching a dog, led to lower blood pressure readings.
I now know that the warm and fuzzy feeling I get every time when I cuddle with my pooch is all about Oxytocin!
- Dogs can keep you silly: Muffy is a goofball! He absolutely loves dressing up and my parents look in awe and wonder seeing him excited whenever I take out his costumes or bandanas. I have dressed him up as Harry Potter (rather, Cedric Diggory since he is a Hufflepuff!), a cute little vampire, a reindeer for Christmas, and so on. Filming and documenting his antics has become a part of my daily routine.
Sometimes he even acts like a little clown making silly faces, rolling on the floor upside down and I immediately stop whatever I am doing to join him. Trust me when I say, I sometimes, literally join him lying on the ground cuddling him. He gets me to laugh and smile at least once a day and is my instant pick-me-up.
So, you know by now how my munchkin saved me from some of the worst moments of my life.
That said, I’d also like to bring to notice that as the lockdowns have come to an end and life is getting back to normal, there is a rising case of abandoning pets. Look at this data from TOI! India’s data revealed that despite an increase in pet owners during the pandemic where 6 of 10 people brought home a pet, 50% of pet owners have relinquished a pet when compared globally. There is no excuse for treating a life, like bringing home a use-and-throw toy.
It breaks my heart to see many making impulse decisions without taking a second to think if they have the time, energy, and resources to adopt a pet.
Pandemic sure has changed our lives. But let’s not forget to love and cherish the constants in our life- family and friends, also our furry friends. You are blessed if you have a canine companion or any pet, especially during these trying times.
Views expressed in this post are personal and for reading purposes only. They’re not medical advice. Each individual’s experience may vary. Please consult a professional if you need help.
This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter.