The past twelve months have been some of the challenging ones that most of us have gone through. They have left us all feeling a bit out of sorts, anxious, and worried a lot of the time. This is why it has been more important than ever to take a look at our mental wellbeing and ensure that we are keeping our mindfulness in check. There are many activities you can do to help aid in your wellbeing and one of those is to get a dog. If you have one already, you are probably reaping the benefits they bring, but if you don’t, they could be a great addition to your family.
It is important to remember that a dog is a lifelong commitment and not something that you should get on a whim. They are something you will have in your family for many years to come and will need to ensure that they will be well cared for and looked after. In the same way that you will show them love and affection, they will do the same back to you and quickly become an integrated member of your family. You could either buy a puppy from a breeder (ensuring it is trusted and legitimate) or rescue one from a rescue center. It is up to you to do the research and find the type of dog that is best for you. If you are a young professional working from home, you will be better with a more active dog that needs lots of exercise, attention, and training (like a puppy) for example, whereas if you are not at home the whole day or aren’t as active, an older or smaller dog is better for you.
One type of dog which is great for families includes silver lab dogs as they are both intelligent and calm in temperament. As mentioned above, just be sure to do thorough research into a type of dog before you get one. Once you add a furry friend to your family you will find that the benefits are endless. Here are five reasons that a dog is great for your wellbeing.
They encourage you to do exercise
There isn't a set limit to how long you should walk your dog in a day, but the average amount to benefit them is between half an hour and two hours per day. Some people tend to split this up into different short walks (in the evening and morning for example), while others like to do one big walk in the middle of the day. There is no perfect formula, as long as they are getting enough exercise. When you are taking them on this walk, it is also giving you exercise. Considering us humans should be doing an hour of exercise a day to benefit both our mental and physical health, this is the perfect way to get this in. With a real motivation to exercise, you will find you don’t skip out on it as you might the gym.
They provide companionship
Being in lockdown, or living alone, can be detrimental to your mental health and you can find yourself feeling very lonely. It gives you another living thing to interact with, do activities with, play with, and look after. This sense of purpose and the fact that you are wanted and needed is very beneficial for your wellbeing. You will have something to tell little stories to at the end of the day (even if they don’t understand what you are saying!) and a lot of dogs have been found to be able to read human emotions. They can sit with you if you are sad or lonely and act as a guard dog if you are home alone, giving a sense of security. There is also nothing more heartwarming than walking into your home after being out and having a happy, tail-wagging dog there to greet you. It can instantly lift your mood even if you have had a bad day and really be beneficial for your wellbeing.
They can add structure and routine to your day
Without a routine in your day, which is something a lot of us have suffered with this year, you can feel a bit useless and like there’s no purpose to your day. Having to care for a dog ensures that you have a routine, have to get up at a certain time of day, feed them and take them on walks. It means that you can’t just stay in bed and mope all day as you have something there that relies on you and you need to take charge of. As said above, in this routine they will also get you out and in the fresh air - even when you don’t feel like it in the slightest. By having this routine to focus on, it will also give you a sense of security; humans are creatures of habit. Having a consistent routine for your dog will also strengthen the bond between you. It will help to build trust and love between you and you will find it doesn't take long for them to be waking you up at the right time in the morning and let you know it is time for them to be fed!
They can reduce your anxiety
One of the best things about dogs is that they can help to reduce your anxiety. A lot of anxiety can be stemmed from worry about things that happened in the past, or that are due to happen in the future (such as a job interview). Dogs, however, live in the present moment and don't worry about these things. This can help you to become more mindful of living in the present and appreciate what you have or are doing at that exact moment in time. Also, they have the power of touch. It has been found that simply by sitting with, stroking, or playing with your dog you can feel much calmer and alleviate your feelings of anxiety.
They can help you to meet new people
As you become an adult, meeting new people and making new friends is a lot harder than it used to be. You aren’t placed into situations such as school or college where you are forced to make a group of friends and meet like-minded people. Particularly true in a time where we work from home and don’t even get to meet all our colleagues, making friends has never been more difficult. Having a dog is a great conversation starter - particularly as dogs will just go up to each other in a park or on a walk, making you see and often talk to their owners. Dog owners also tend to all get into a routine so if you see someone on a walk, you will probably see them every day around the same time. A friendly wave of recognition could soon lead to a conversation and even a friendship.
These are just a few reasons that a dog is great for your mental and physical wellbeing. Just remember to do the above and really research how a dog will fit into your life. Think of the type of dog that is best for you and your lifestyle and ensure you will have the time and resources to take care of it properly. If you aren’t going to be in for long periods of time in the day, assess if it is good for you and think about getting a dog sitter.