Today’s guest post: How My Dogs Improved My Mental Health, comes from Manchester based Radio Presenter, Blogger and Boxer Dog Mama to Monty & Minnie, Tina Bailey.
Any dog owner will tell you that their furry family member can make them feel better. So today Tina talks about just how exactly her dogs improved her mental health.
When you own a dog, you not only get a loyal companion, you also gain a “reason to get out and about”. The various activities you’ll get up to with your dog will boost those all-important endorphins.
For me, walking the dogs has meant having a regular nudge to get fresh air, and a good dose of Vitamin D. Dogs need regular meals and exercise, and so naturally we’ve developed a routine.
The exercise, of course, definitely helps to improve and maintain my physical health, but it’s also the sense of calm that the routine has created in my life which has helped to give me a sense of balance and security – something I think many of us need and crave.
Before long, I was naturally waking up in time for their morning toilet break. Like clockwork the kids and dogs needed feeding at the same time each morning. Walks followed suit as I took the kids to school, then pups on their walks; all before settling down to work for the day. At the same time most days, too. Which might sound boring, but means the weekdays pass quickly and the weekends come around even faster!
Many people struggle with sensory overload. Quite often, dogs can help ease this. The repetitive act of stroking a pet can be soothing to many people. It can also help those who are struggling with sensory overload to regulate themselves. Did you know stroking a pet is also thought to help lower your blood pressure?!
Being a mum to four (two humans peoples and two pup peoples) on top of a hefty work schedule, means I pretty much live in a constant state of stress. And like many dogs, my two are often able to sense when I’m feeling over stressed or anxious. According to helpguide.org, stroking and engaging with a loving animal can calm and soothe you if you’re feeling anxious or stressed. I really couldn’t argue against that. My pair always seem to know when to give me a reassuring look, or pop their head on my lap for comfort.
I read somewhere once, that playing with your dog helps to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine in both yours and their body. These are two of the four chemicals which are responsible for your happiness. I live to maintain that sense of happiness in them, and the joy it gives me and my family in return, is both heartwarming and soothing to the soul.
Playing fetch or hide and seek with your pet is about more than just a stick, or even the task/chore of exercising them. It’s bonding and a mutually beneficial way to make you both feel better.
Walking your dog is a great way to meet new people. If you go to the same place at the same time each day, you’ll soon be saying hello to familiar faces. Many people have made lifelong friends when walking their dogs, I know I definitely have! Keep an eye out for local dog socialising groups too - they are also a good way to connect with other dog owners.
It really is amazing how many ways dogs can improve your mental health. Even more if you’re a parent like me. Whether your children have left home, or like mine are at school all day, it’s easy to feel unneeded. For me with a lot of the work I do being from home, my dogs fill the void and stop that overwhelming void of quiet from kicking in.
Caring for a dog can help you to feel wanted and needed. Dogs can give your day a sense of purpose, as well as a reason to get up in the morning. Something which I’m sure a lot of elderly people, especially during lockdown have felt and endured.
I’ve often felt that their unconditional companionship has added years to my life and even helped keep that spring in my step during the hardest of times. My dogs are my cheerleaders, my guards and my wing (wo)men.
They take care of me and my family (in their own way) just as much as we take care of them. This year especially I’m sure many pet owners like me have felt that their dogs often gave them something to focus on. A happy distraction from all the uncertainty and problems we’ve had to face.