Thursday, 2 February 2017

7 WAYS DOGS IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH

I adore my dog, Barney, he's part of the family. He's like my furry baby - he even asks to be picked up! And he absolutely loves having his tummy tickled and a cuddle. But most importantly, when I'm feeling down and barely can drag myself out of bed, he is there. He gives me a cuddle and just simply motivates me to get out of bed, have a shower and get ready. Even if it is just to take him for walkies.

My mum and dad bought Barney for me when I had just come out of hospital. I was dying for a dog for months, sending them pictures of cockapoos. And finally, when we were on holiday in France, they caved in. We went to see Barney and instantly fell in love. The rest is history. Everyone loves him. And he truly makes us all so happy, when we may have had the hardest day ever.

There are dozens of reasons why having a dog can improve your mental health massively. Here's some of my reasons:

1. They give you purpose. Having a dog isn't all about having someone to snuggle up to, they require looking after. You have to feed them, walk them, train them, groom them, play with them and of course, give them lots of attention (that's where the cuddles and belly rubs come in). This gives you a purpose, just like having a children. You can't stay in bed all day cuddling your dog or just binge-watching the latest reality show, you have to get up and look after them!

2. Stroking makes you happy. Cuddles! One of my favourite things about having Barney isn't just how much he loves cuddles, but how happier these cuddles make me! Stroking him, petting him, tickling his belly, snuggling up in bed with him - all these things make me happy, as well as making Barney a very happy doggy. Something about stroking a dog releases endorphins (those happy hormones) and not only this, but it reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. So it's win-win situation really.

3. They reduce loneliness. I mean this is obvious. The phrase "a men's best friend is a dog" says is all really. I hate being alone. Coming home into an empty house is something that seriously gets me down, but I don't have that anymore. I come home to a happy, jumping dog who's so excited to see me. And it really cheers me up. If i'm sitting on the sofa all night catching up with the latest soaps, as long as Barney is on my lap, I'm happy. He's a great listener too. He doesn't much love the soaps though....

4. They love you unconditionally. You forgot to get their favourite treats this week, you tell them off for being naughty, you ignore them when you come in from work because you're just so stressed and can't be bothered with a jumping happy day. Do they care? They probably look a bit sad. But guess what, they still love you. And if 2 minutes later you decide to say hello and give them a tummy rub, they'll be all smiles and licking you all over again. They love you no matter what. We all could definitely learn a thing or two from dogs.

5. They make you smile. Even when Barney is sitting there staring at me for 10 minutes straight, whining because he wants a treat and it is so irritating (because he had a treat 5 minutes ago), you can't help but smile. Dogs do the funniest things don't they? When I tell him it's time for walkies, he gets so excited he does this really funny (and cute) bum wiggle. I can't help but smile. Even though I'm trying desperately to get his collar on him and his bum just won't stop wiggling! Then he insists on carrying his lead in his mouth until you're out the door for his walk. He's a funny one.

6. They get you outside. Dogs have to go on walks. They have to get some fresh air, go to the toilet and have a good run around, this gets you out the house and exercising. Walking is one of the best exercises in my eyes because I think it's so relaxing (and fairly easy to do - you can walk anywhere!), but it's a great way to get your body moving and your heart pumping. And if you have a dog, it's even better because you're never lonely while exercising. And if you have a dog anything like Barney, he loves to run around, chasing birds and chasing you. Plus, getting outside and exercising is SO important for your mental health.

7. Playing is fun. When you've had a bad day at work, sometimes playing that game of tug of war with your dog makes everything better. It takes you away from reality for a moment and you forget all your worries. And your dog will love it.

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