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Painted Brain | The Natural Antidepressant: Your Dog
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
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The Natural Antidepressant_

The Natural Antidepressant: Your Dog


As it turns out, our little furbabies are more than just cute and loyal companions; they improve our mental health too! Have you ever come home from a bad day and instantly felt better after seeing your pet? If so, you’re not alone. A Survey conducted on the human-animal bond found that 74% of pet owners reported improvements in mental health from pet ownership!

Recently there has been a growing body of research on the mental health benefits of pets, especially dogs. The conclusions show that dogs make you happier by reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

Other studies found that playing, petting, and talking to dogs actually increases neurochemicals related to positive feelings, such as oxytocin and dopamine levels, in both dogs and people. Positive interactions with dogs have also been shown to decrease the stress hormone, cortisol, and lower blood pressure.

Dr. Ann Berger, a physician and researcher at the NIH , explains why dogs are so helpful:

“Dogs are very present. If someone is struggling with something, they know how to sit there and be loving. Their attention is focused on the person all the time.”

Per the research, having a dog would greatly help those living with depression. Though adding the huge responsibility of caring for a pet might seem counterintuitive, it actually might even help. Caring for a dog will increase self-worth as it gives purpose and the sense that we are wanted. It also provides structure, which we as humans, inherently need. Thus, being able to look after a dog will greatly improve ones self-efficacy and self-esteem.

Dogs will end the isolation brought on by depression both by being great companions and by bringing people together. Taking your dog on a walk in the neighborhood or to the dog park creates opportunities to socialize with others and spark up conversations. Research has shown the benefits of owning a dog in regards to social attention, social behavior, and interpersonal interactions. Additionally, the fact that it will get you physically moving alone will decrease depression symptoms and provide a healthier lifestyle.

With that being said, it’s important to consider all the important factors before adding a new member to your family. Caring for a dog can become quite costly with veterinarian visits, food, toys, and more. Dogs also require a lot of time, attention, and affection. If this might be a source of strain, it’s best to hold off and consider other options such as volunteering at a shelter or dog sitting.

Owning a dog may not be the answer for everyone, but it certainly can help many! If you do think you’re ready for your new best friend, make sure to take the time and find the right kind of dog for you. For tips on factors to consider when choosing and caring for your pet, visit the CDC. There are many loving dogs at shelters all around Los Angeles waiting for a new home. If you are interested in adopting, visit LA Animal Services for more information.

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