How Dogs can Help with your Mental Health

Those cute furry friends of ours provide more than just enjoyable snuggles. They can also be great for your mental health. A psychologist explains why.

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CLEVELAND – If you’ve noticed that you seem to feel more calm and happier around your four-legged friend, you’re not alone.

A recent study found that people who spent time with a therapy dog while in the emergency room reported experiencing less pain after.

The results come as no surprise to Jane Manno, PsyD, psychologist for Cleveland Clinic.

“Just physically, being around animals releases some positive neurotransmitters in the brain,” said Dr. Manno. “Studies have shown serotonin and dopamine, so there’s a biological component. It decreases blood pressure, it decreases the stress hormone cortisol.”

Doctor Manno said beyond just the physical, humans also seem to have a strong emotional connection with their dogs. Many times a dog can sense their owner’s mood, especially if they’re feeling anxious or depressed.

She said in some cases, she will recommend a patient get a dog if they are experiencing those kinds of mental health issues. That’s because dogs can help them get out of the house more, feel a sense of purpose and they can also aid in feelings of loneliness.

Not to mention, dogs love unconditionally, so they won’t judge.

Doctor Manno said if you’re unable to have a dog of your own, you could always consider volunteering at a shelter instead.

“It does make you feel good. It’s a commitment. You’re doing something for the greater good, you’re also meeting people and being with animals as well. So yes, there are a lot of benefits, and it gets you out of the house, particularly if someone is isolating all the time,” she noted.

Doctor Manno said while dogs are great for some people, it’s important to make sure you have the time and resources to take care of them.

She also discourages getting an animal if you live in an unstable household.

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