There’s nothing quite like the love of a four-legged best friend and, in time for Mental Health Awareness Week, new research has found that over three quarters of people in the UK agree that owning a dog has positively impacted their wellbeing.
As part of a new study, dog-friendly holiday letting specialist Canine Cottages has teamed up with Liz Ritchie, Integrative Psychotherapist from St Andrew’s Healthcare, and Lila Varsani, Lead Psychologist at AI Mental Health Solution Wysa, to understand the positive impact that dogs can have on our mental health.
When polled, a whopping 83% of Brits agreed that their dog had positively impacted them, proving that dogs truly are deserving of their ‘man’s best friend’ title.
People also noticed that their stress levels and anxiety improved after becoming a dog owner, with 81% reporting that their dogs had made them feel safer and more confident. Having someone to lean on during tricky times can be very beneficial for our wellbeing.
A total of 88% of Brits claimed that their dogs have made them more physically active and improved their physical health, something that is proven to also have an impact on general wellbeing.
Below, the experts explain why dogs really do help to boost our mood.
A Sense of Belonging And Identity
According to research, the bond between owners and their dogs is quite similar to the bond between a parent and their child. Digging deeper into how dogs positively affect our sense of belonging and identity, Varsani says, “The responsibility of taking care of a dog adds routine and purpose, which can help provide reassurance and structure for people struggling with stability.
“This sense of caring can help improve self-esteem. Often, dogs pick up on emotions and sense when people are upset and anxious. By just being around, they can offer a calming presence. This is why therapy dogs are becoming used more widely.”
Ritchie adds, “Dogs can provide many people with a sense of identity and belonging. Their total reliance on us makes us accountable which can do wonders for our self-concept and mental wellbeing.”
Alleviating Stress And Low Mood
Research has shown that simply petting a dog can lower cortisol, a hormone in the human body which is released due to stress.
On dogs’ ability to calm us and improve our mood, Ritchie mentions, “Evidence suggests that the presence of a dog can lower our stress levels, inducing a better state of calmness and ultimately has the benefit of reducing the likelihood of heart-related illnesses. Dogs teach us how to love and to feel loved and ultimately their trust in us encourages us to be reliable and trustworthy human beings.”
Responsibility And Routine
Dogs need routine to feel safe and happy. Having a schedule on walks, feeding time, and bedtime can benefit the dog and can also help the dog owner reduce stress.
On the matter of routine and exercise, Ritchie says, “Dogs need exercise, so engaging in physical activities with your dog and accessing the outdoors has a hugely positive impact on both our mental and physical health. Endorphins and dopamine are released which improves mood and increases happiness.”
Commenting on the findings of the study, Digital PR Manager at Canine Cottages, Sarah Pring, says, “At Canine Cottages, we all know how precious dogs are to their owners and are positively surprised by how many dog owners reported better wellbeing as a result of acquiring a dog. It’s important to spend time on self-care and take care of your mental health. With a portfolio of cottages in the countryside, a cottage holiday is a great way to get away from the busy city life and enjoy a wellness break!”
To read more about the study, please visit Canine Cottages’ blog here: https://www.caninecottages.co.uk/blog/pawsitive-pups