We all know that spending time with our furry friends can be therapeutic. But did you know that therapy dogs are specially trained to provide comfort and support to people in a variety of settings? From hospitals to nursing homes, schools to disaster relief sites, these special dogs are making a big difference in the lives of people who need it most. Let’s take a closer look at how therapy dogs can help improve your mental health.
Studies have shown that spending time with therapy dogs can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve overall mental health. For people who are dealing with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions, therapy dog can provide much-needed companionship and unconditional love. In fact, many therapists now use dogs as part of their treatment plan for patients with mental health conditions.
In addition to providing emotional support, therapy dogs can also help people in other ways. For example, therapy dog can be used in physical rehabilitation centers to help patients recover from injuries. They can also be used in hospices and hospitals to provide comfort to patients and their families. And, as mentioned before, therapy dog can also help children learn to read. When kids read aloud to therapy dogs, they feel more comfortable and relaxed—which allows them to practice their reading skills without feeling self-conscious.
What is a Therapy Dog?
A therapy dog is a dog that has been trained to provide comfort and support to people who are dealing with physical, emotional, or psychological challenges. Unlike service dogs, which are primarily trained to perform specific tasks for their owners, therapy dogs do not have to perform any special tricks or tasks. Their mere presence is often enough to provide comfort and relief.
How Do Therapy Dog Help?
Therapy dogs can help people in a variety of ways, depending on their individual needs. For example, therapy dogs can provide much-needed companionship for elderly patients living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. They can also help children with autism or other developmental disorders to improve their social and communication skills. And for people who are dealing with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, therapy dogs can offer an invaluable source of support and comfort.
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that interacting with therapy dogs can have a profound impact on our physical health as well. Studies have shown that spending time with a therapy dog can lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce stress hormone levels, and increase levels of the “feel-good” hormone oxytocin. These effects may be due in part to the fact that interacting with animals helps us to relax and feel less anxious. In addition, stroking a dog has been found to decrease pain perception by releasing endorphins—the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals—into the bloodstream.
Benefits of Therapy Dogs
There are many benefits of therapy dogs, including reducing stress, anxiety, and loneliness. They can also help increase self-esteem, confidence, and overall happiness levels. Here are just a few ways that therapy dogs can help improve your mental health:
Reduce Stress Levels: Spending time with a therapy dog can help reduce your stress levels. One study found that people who spent just 15 minutes with a therapy dog had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol afterward.
Anxiety Relief: For people who suffer from anxiety, spending time with a therapy dog can help reduce their symptoms. One study found that children with anxiety showed a reduction in their symptoms after spending time with a therapy dog for just one week.
Loneliness Prevention: Therapy dogs can help prevent loneliness by providing companionship and unconditional love. One study found that seniors who spent time with therapy dogs had lower levels of loneliness and isolation than those who didn’t have regular contact with dogs.
How Therapy Dogs Can Help With Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD
For many people, anxiety is a constant battle. And for some, medication doesn’t always do the trick. That’s where therapy dog can help. Studies have shown that spending time with a therapy dog can lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and increase oxytocin levels (the “feel good” hormone). In other words, therapy dogs can help to calm and relax people who are struggling with anxiety.
Therapy dogs can also be beneficial for those who are struggling with depression. One study found that therapy dog visits helped to reduce depressive symptoms in residents of assisted living facilities. Other studies have shown that petting a dog can help to release serotonin (another “feel good” hormone) and decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Finally, therapy dogs can be a valuable treatment option for people who suffer from PTSD. Studies have shown that interacting with a therapy dog can help to reduce symptoms of PTSD, such as flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and social isolation. For many people with PTSD, dogs provide a sense of safety and security that is often hard to find elsewhere.
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or lonely, spending time with a therapy dog may be able to help. These special dogs are trained to provide comfort and support to people in need, and they can have a big impact on your mental health. So next time you’re feeling down, consider spending some time with a furry friend—it just might be the best medicine.