It is no secret that I am a dog lover. Dogs are full of boundless energy and give snuggles in abundance. They love unconditionally and their fierce loyalty is unmatched. Dogs are the best companions. While I know there are countless ways our fuzzy friends are like superheroes when it comes to managing stress and reducing anxiety; I've included just five of the top ways they do so.
DOGS MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD:
Dogs can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine (those lovely things that help us relax and calm down). Just playing with my dog by taking him to dog beach, throwing his ball or teaching him tricks helps bring down my anxiety level. Dogs lives in the moment and often anxiety resides in the past or future so staying present to play with a pup is really helpful.
DOGS ARE THE BEST WELCOME HOME COMMITTEE
If you’ve had a bad day at work or at school or just a rough day being a human, there is nothing like coming home to a pup that is just bursting at the seams for your very presence. Dogs are not concerned with how you look, if your hair is brushed or if you stained your shirt with coffee. They are just excited you are home. The desire to belong and feel connected is such an intrinsic human experience and dogs know just how to make you feel like you belong. I can barely get my work bags on the ground before my dog wants to be in my lap. DOGS GET YOU OUTSIDE:
We know that the sun offers vitamin D and that vitamin D helps regulate our mood. Leonard needs multiple walks a day, therefore Scott and I get a lot of time in the sun these days. Movement, and vitamin D all are linked to reducing cortisol and anxiety levels. Thank you puppies!
DOGS ARE GROUNDING:
As I mentioned before dogs help you remain in the present. If someone is experiencing extreme panic, flashbacks or even PTSD just reaching out and petting a puppy can be very grounding. It reminds you of what is going on right now. Trauma informed care includes learning to use our sense (what we see, feel, touch, smell) to help us stay in the moment. Holding a little pup and hearing their heart beat against our own reminds us that we are living in the present, not the past or future. DOGS MAKE YOU LAUGH: Laughter is the best medicine. Laughter increases our oxygen (giving us relaxed muscles) and reduces cortisol levels (the stress hormone). So it isn't any surprise that watching our pets and dogs' silly antics can really calm us down. Even when my dog does something really "naughty" I sometimes have to suppress my laughter so he knows I'm serious. (like last night when he ate off the stem of pumpkin #yummy?). Sometimes he jumps under the bed with only his tail sticking out. Sometimes he chases his tail. Sometimes he runs at full tilt in a tight circle with his tongue hanging out and his eyes looking wild. Sometimes he growls at Halloween decorations in neighbor's yards. If you don't have a dog, go to dog beach or any dog park and your will be really entertained at their antics.
What about you? How do pets help reduce your stress?