Dogs make people happy. There is nothing revolutionary about that statement, but nothing validates a feeling like scientific studies to back it up. Check out some of these amazing ways people have proved that owning a puppy psychologically and physiologically makes us happier humans.
Proof That Dogs Really DO Increase Happiness
- Eye contact. There may be yet another reason why so many celebrities post pictures of their pets on social media, or why animal memes, and videos are so popular. We humans LOVE looking at pets! As it turns out, gazing at pets bumps up our positive emotions.
Miho Nagasawa of the Azabu University in Japan conducted a study in 2009 proved that someone’s oxytocin (the “happy” hormone) levels increase when they spend time with their dogs. All you need to do is literally stare into your pup’s eyes. Simply making eye contact with our pets can noticeably increase our happiness. The longer the eye-to-eye connection, the larger the dose of oxytocin is released. No wonder we unfailingly fall for those darling “puppy dog eyes.”
- Frolicking gleefully in a park! Ok, most dog-walks do not consist of whimsically frolicking through a flower-strewn meadow. BUT having a dog necessitates a daily drip outdoors, taking long breaths, and getting your blood pumping on long walk or run. Exercise gives us a kick of endorphins, which brighten dark days and lift low moods. Taking a daily walk with our dogs make us feel more energized and upbeat.
- Playing for smiles. Regular rough-housing, wrestling, playing tug-of-war, and generally romping around with a dog actually makes humans feel a real, in-person friendship in this ever-virtual world. The relational disconnect of humans in the modern age is a genuine problem. A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicated that playing with their dog improved an individual’s physical health, as well as emotional and mental health. Building reliance, trust, and emotional connection with our dogs helps us actually feel more content.
- Petting = happiness. Did you know that even the act of petting a dog lifts the spirits? The University of Missouri-Columbia found that taking several minutes to pet your dog will increase the levels of serotonin and oxytocin (chemicals which calm, relax and comfort us). To change it up, pet your dog against the grain of his fur to lower your cortisol stress hormone!
- Self-esteem booster. Have you seen our blog on what couples can learn from dogs? (I’m talking about us, ladies)! 100% of relationships thrive on genuine affirmation. Dogs make their humans feel like the most important person in the world, the person worth all their attention and focus, and completely lovable unconditionally. That kind of confidence boost is something that increases our overall contentment in life.
More Fun Facts
Dogs are natural love gurus! In a survey conducted by a UK charity called Dog’s Trust, 700 people were asked about their perception of people with dogs. Over 60% found that people with dogs are instantly more attractive, and 85% of those surveyed agreed that people are more approachable when they are out with a dog. (Word to the wise, here are some key conversation starters for dog-lovers that might help you next time you see a cutie walking her dog!)
Puppies trigger the mama/papa bear response. Did you know that Konrad Lorenz (an Austrian zoologist) believes that the very shape of a canine face could cause the same “infant schema” that parents go through when they connect with their baby? Though this assumption is speculative, it does stand to reason that the wide eyes, weakness, smallness and high forehead give us social releasers that inspire the care-giving reaction in us. (Fun fact: A dog’s responsive desire to stare back at us is one quality that distinguishes domestic dogs from wild wolves.)
Loneliness be gone! These above reasons reinforce the study that found people owning a dog were four times less likely to have depression than pet-free people.
Pet Therapy is an entire realm that verifies the extent to which canine-induced comfort and happiness can change and rebuild lives. Wanna be happy? Get a dog!