A dog may be the health boost you need

Household 3 min read

Have you had those days when you’re so caught up in life that you just need a break? Things are just a little “off,” and you’re looking for a way to get back on track. Well, it might be time to follow the philosophies of top stress-management experts … dogs!

Research has repeatedly shown[1] there are therapeutic health benefits to having dogs beyond the simple affection they offer. They can boost your vitality both mentally and physically—and give you a different perspective on life. Maybe it’s time to immerse yourself in Fido’s approach to managing it all.

Here are our top four tips for letting your dog be your life coach—and refocus your priorities:

1. A dog’s view on life

A dog’s needs and wants are rather basic. It’s the essentials: food, water, exercise and companionship. Sure … the cool toys, outfits, or nice beds help, but those high-maintenance options are chosen by you—not your dog. Spend a little time watching your pet and quickly learn how keeping your needs simple can make life easier. Where do you start? Try a “house purging” weekend when you donate or toss out some of the excess you have in your home. You can feel great sorting through your stuff and may discover you need less than you thought to be happy.

2. The mindset game-changer

You just got home from a crazy workday. Suddenly, your perky pup welcomes you with a few barks, some hand licking, and a nudge to show you were missed. Have you noticed that his behavior can help you shift gears, get calmer, and improve your overall well-being. How does this happen? Well, there’s a little science behind what you’re feeling. Bonding with, or even hugging, your dog can create a surge of oxytocin (a natural chemical in your body) that can actually soothe you, reduce your anxiety, lower your blood pressure[2], and make you happier. That’s why it’s no surprise those same types of human/dog interactions have had incredible impacts on people with autism, Alzheimer’s, and even post-traumatic stress disorders.

3. Jump off your stepper … and walk a dog

Want to save on your home exercise equipment and personal trainers? Since most dogs require walks a few times a day, keeping up with your “pooch” can provide the motivational support and physical activity you need. In fact, recent studies have shown that dog owners are often healthier than their dog-free counterparts—and walked 22 minutes more per day on average (over 2,500 steps) compared to people who didn’t have a canine buddy.[3] And while you can find excuses to not workout, your dog will push you until you step away from the remote and get out the door. They’re LIKE personal trainers with constant reminders of what you need to do—only without the “go-for-the-burn” chants!

4. College campus recruits

Many colleges are inviting therapy dogs on campus[4] to help offer students comfort and reduce anxiety during peak stress periods such as finals weeks. You can quickly see how the soothing temperament of the pets (often rescue dogs) can distract and re-energize the students. Universities have even shown the efforts have resulted in improved reading scores, overall academics, and social interactions, while acting as a coping mechanism for homesickness (particularly being away from their own family pets). Because most therapy dog programs are typically volunteer-based efforts funded through donations, there’s generally no cost to the school for these campus visits. So, it’s a win-win for the students and their GPA scores![5]

These are all basic things you can do to have a healthier and happier lifestyle for years to come. There are other practical things you can do to keep balance in your life. For example, put aside any procrastination and take a few minutes to check out life insurance. It’s simpler than you think … and more important than you might realize. How do you know if you need it? Consider this. You may think it’s not important—until it is important, and by then it’s too late. You might leave those closest to you with a financial burden. So, whether it’s a pet or a policy, the same perspective applies. It’s all about making the right choices to enjoy your life more with some added peace of mind.

[1] Levine, MD et al. Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, Published Online May 9, 2013 (Accessed November 30, 2017); Online ISSN: 1524-4539.

[2] Ziv Melter, Dogs are man’s best friend thanks to hormone that builds bonds and reduces blood pressure. HelloHeart.com. (Posted April 20, 2015; Accessed November 30, 2017)

[3] Dog Owners Walk 22 Minutes More Per Day. And Yes, It Counts As Exercise. NPR.org. (June 12, 2017).

[4] Mike Callahan, Therapy Dogs on Campus: The Benefit to Students, Faculty. College Planning & Management. (July 6, 2017)

[5] Joan Raymond, Campus Therapy Dogs Offer a Helping Paw to Stressed Students; NBCNews.com (April 15, 2016)

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