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9 Reasons Getting A Dog Seriously Ups Your Wellness Practice

Photo by ASPCA
March 09, 2018

Dogs can affect our health in subtle yet substantial ways. Here are nine feel-good health benefits that owning a dog—or just donating to help many out—can provide:

1. They get you outside.

Your dog will force you to step outside at least once a day. Exposure to nature has been linked to everything from improved immune function to decreased stress, so even that super-quick morning walk around the park could be doing wonders for your well-being.

2. They keep you active.

While the idea of braving the cold or rain to walk your dog may seem daunting sometimes, think of it as an investment in your health. In an age of online shopping, nearly instantaneous food deliveries, and constant entertainment at our fingertips, we’re walking less than ever before. Animals can help you stay active and hit your daily step count without having to think twice about it.

3. They regulate your sleeping schedule.

Since most dogs expect to be fed first thing in the morning, they encourage us to set our alarms earlier and lay off the snooze button. Waking up at the same time each day, preferably with the sun, is a proven way to reinforce the body’s natural circadian rhythm. It helps us sleep better and reap the restorative benefits of a good night’s rest (think: a better mood, increased creativity, and a more even-keeled appetite).

4. With animals, we're lonely no more.

Photo: ASPCA

2018 will go down in history as the year the United Kingdom appointed its first Minister of Loneliness. Yep, loneliness is a full-blown epidemic these days, and it’s making us sad and downright sick. (Feeling alone raises our stress level, leading to tons of unnecessary inflammation.) Having an animal at home has been shown to decrease feelings of loneliness, especially in older adults1. Not to mention, becoming a regular at your local dog park is a great way to get to know neighbors you probably wouldn’t have otherwise spoken to.

5. Petting them is a medicine in itself.

The notion that animals are therapeutic goes back to ancient Egypt, where it was thought that a dog’s lick could heal sores or lesions. Since then, science has proved the idea that petting animals can lower blood pressure2 and reduce stress levels by releasing oxytocin in the brain and decreasing cortisol production. It makes sense that therapy dogs are staples in hospitals, nursing homes, and college campuses come finals time.

6. They give your home a healthy microbiome.

The bacteria, viruses, and fungi that dogs introduce into our homes can help diversify our gut microbiome—the collection of microorganisms that influences everything from our mood to our digestion and respiratory health. That’s one reason kids who grow up with a dog at home are nearly 13 percent less likely3 to develop asthma later in life.

Even if you live in a tiny apartment and work around the clock, you can still reap some of these mind-body benefits without owning a dog of your own. Simply making a charitable donation to humane societies like the ASPCA can make you happier and healthier, because...

7. You'll feel fulfilled knowing that you're giving to a good cause.

Photo: ASPCA

One of the largest humane societies in the world, the ASPCA rescues animals in need from situations like dogfighting, hoarding, natural disasters, abuse, and other types of neglect. Then they help give animals the lifesaving food, shelter, and medicine they need to bounce back. The ASPCA depends on the ongoing support of Guardians to fuel their wide-reaching efforts and help save more lives. Similar to actually owning a dog, giving to an organization like this can help you feel proud.

8. You'll know your money is being put to good use.

Donations to the ASPCA can help abused and abandoned animals get adopted into loving homes, keep their Field Investigations & Response (FIR) Team fully prepared to provide relief, food, and shelter in the wake of natural disasters, and give animals emergency medical care and rehabilitation. Your monthly gift can help the ASPCA spend less time fundraising and more time saving lives.

9. Your brain's happy chemicals will go through the roof.

Beyond being great for animals, giving can also be good for you. Philanthropic giving has been shown to emit happiness-promoting brain chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin. It might even help lower blood pressure and ease stress. Join more than 2 million ASPCA supporters across the country today, and get your happy fix on.

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