5 Ways Dogs can Reduce Your Anxiety

It is estimated that nearly 40 million Americans suffer with anxiety daily. Relieving symptoms and the severity of panic attacks is the primary goal for many dealing with this issues. Whether it’s test anxiety, stress over a new job or something more severe, having a dog nearby may help reduce your uneasy feelings. Dogs can help reduce anxiety in many ways, and below are five examples of how they do just that.

1. Petting Can Reduce Tension

The motion of petting a dog, or any animal, has been known to help reduce feelings of anxiety. A psychiatry professor at Standord University confirmed this. When you pet a dog, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone can stop the body from creating hormones that cause stress, like cortisol. So not only can dogs help pull you out of those feelings of anxiousness, they can actually get your body to stop producing those signals of stress and anxiety.

After two years of struggling with anxiety myself, my family and I decided to adopt a dog. My reasons for adopting her had nothing to do with my anxiety, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that having her around was a big help. Being able to snuggle up to my dog and spend time petting her has positive effects, and she doesn’t seem to mind the extra attention.

2. Dogs Can Help You Focus On Positive Things

A dog can offer a much-needed distraction during times of anxiety or panic. For me, finding a distraction to take my mind off of what I am feeling is the best way to deal with anxiety and its symptoms. You can sit and play with your pooch or work on teaching them a new trick or command. Training a puppy takes lots of time and dedication, and it may be just what you need to get your brain to focus on something positive.

If you don’t have a dog of your own, consider adopting or visiting a local animal shelter. Many shelters and rescues are more than happy to let you play with the dogs there. Once you establish a relationship with a shelter and its staff, you may be allowed to take the dogs for walks as well. Who knows, you may even end up finding a great place to volunteer in your spare time. Volunteering can be a great way to keep busy and focus on more positive things.

3. Walking A Dog Helps Reduce Tension

Another great way that a dog can help relieve anxiety is by helping you get more exercise. Taking your furry friend for a walk will benefit both of you. Many people that suffer with anxiety have trouble sleeping, and exercise is one way to improve the quality of sleep. A good night’s sleep can help you combat anxiety and stress.

Exercise can help to relieve muscle tension, encourage your body to produce more endorphins and decrease the frequency of panic attacks. You do not have to perform a crazy amount of exercise, but just taking a short walk around the block daily with your dog can do great things. One added benefit is that people who walk more often have lower blood pressure.

4. Being Social

Dogs can help you get back out there and be more social. If you’re like me, this can be one of the hardest aspects to dealing with anxiety. While taking your pup for a walk, you may run into fellow dog owners on the way. You can take your furry friend to a dog park. While they are playing, try to take the initiative and find someone to talk to. You know that you will have something in common, as you both brought your dogs to the same place.

If you have trouble in crowded places or going into larger stores, take your dog with you. There are a number of stores now that allow pets inside as long as they are on a leash. Do some research and find out if stores in your area are pet friendly. It will give both you and your dog a chance to be more social.

5. Creating A Routine

Creating a routine can help greatly to relieve stress and anxiety. Anxiety can make you want to stay in bed all day. If you are like me, you may not always have the ambition to get up and exercise. This might change once you have a dog to take care of. They rely on you, and knowing this can give you the incentive you need to get the day rolling. Knowing that you are needed is a very powerful thing.  

When you get up in the morning to feed your dog, take the time to get yourself something to eat as well. Let your pet’s morning meal be a reminder that you need to eat too, as eating properly can help ease symptoms of anxiety throughout your day. You can even set a feeding schedule for your pet three times a day, so that it serves as a reminder for your meals as well. Creating this daily routine can keep both you and your pet healthy, happy and productive.

Dogs can do truly incredible things for people dealing with anxiety. They can help to reduce the symptoms associated with anxiety and stress, and generally get you healthier. If you are thinking of adopting a dog, be sure that it is the right step for you. Pets are a big commitment and do require a lot of time. As I mentioned before, you can always visit the pets at a local shelter. These animals could always use a little more love and affection too. For those of you battling with anxiety, keep your head up and keep going. You can get through it.