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Whoever said you can’t buy happiness forgot about little puppies. Puppies have a way of completely turning your life around in the best way possible. In my case specifically, I’m an introvert who moved halfway across the country to Columbia, Missouri last summer. I’m also a full-time blogger with a home office, so there are few opportunities to meet people organically, especially since Columbia is very much a college town and we’re both well outside of our college years. Prior to our move, Kyle and I both worked from home, so even when we spent time in rural Maine, I was never lonely. After a few weeks of working alone in my home office– sometimes going days without new face-to-face interaction, I started exhibiting signs of moving to a new city depression.
Even as an introvert, I crave interaction. That’s a common misconception about introverts. Yes, we love alone time, but that doesn’t mean we’re impervious to social withdrawals. Kyle and I made the executive decision to adopt Nala in November, and it was the absolute best decision we’ve ever made. We’d heard that golden retrievers are some of the best dogs for people with depression, but we had no idea just how much she’d enrich our lives in such a short period of time. If you’re toying with the notion of pet adoption, I’m rounding up eight ways a puppy can boost your health, happiness, and overall well-being in today’s post!
1. Dogs love unconditionally.
Josh Billings said, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” It’s true. Their love is palpable, and it has the ability to give your life a greater self-esteem and a well-being boost. They accept their owners without judgement, even when they’re depressed, anxious, overweight, or wearing the same clothes as yesterday. Oftentimes, this helps people (like myself) feel like they have a true friend– even during the most trying times, like when you’re feeling depressed in a new city.
2. Dogs give you a sense of purpose.
Depression can take you to a scary place. Most of the time, you’re left searching for reasons to get out of bed in the morning. A sweet puppy wagging his or her tail is very compelling motivation. Studies have shown that dogs help break the vicious cycle of anxiety, depression, and general negativity by providing comforting companionship and a sense of purpose for their owners. For example, dogs need to be fed, walked, groomed, and played with. Every day–multiple times a day. Even when you fail to find the motivation to take care of yourself, their little faces make it easy to find the motivation to care for them.
One of the best decisions we’ve made was to choose Freshpet as our dog food. I was nervous that I wouldn’t know enough about nutrition to make an educated decision, but just reading the ingredients in Freshpet versus other popular dog foods made the choice a no brainer. Freshpet is a real, all-natural pet food that’s served fresh from the fridge. They never use any additives, preservatives, or any gross pre-processed meat powders. It’s literally the next best thing to a home cooked meal for Nala, and we couldn’t be happier with our choice.
Nala’s favorite right now is Freshpet’s Tender Chicken Recipe for Small Dogs. Her little face lights up when I open the fridge. It’s made with real chicken, cranberries, and garden vegetables that you can actually see in her food. To examine the ingredients for yourself, find Freshpet near you! You can also check them out on Facebook and Instagram for new recipes and a handful of seriously adorable pet success stories.
3. Dogs are always there when you need them.
Do you feel like your friends always bail on you? Guess who won’t ever do that– your dog! They’ll always be happy to see you– and their tale will be wagging to prove it! Particularly if you’re feeling depressed in a new city, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that someone is at home waiting to hang out with you! Plus, dogs are just nicer beings than most humans. Even if you’re mad at them, they’ll never stay mad at you. They’re the first to forgive and the last to hold a grudge.
4. Dogs make it hard to take life too seriously.
Nala is an awesome puppy, but she has a little “glee pee” problem. She pees whenever she gets excited, and she’s a golden retriever, so it happens often. She also jumps up on the couch, sheds like crazy, and has a little bit of biting problem. I’ve always been a Type A neat freak, but I gotta tell you– I’ve chilled out considerably since we got her! She’s just such a joy to have around that my priorities have completely changed. My new shameless dog mom mentality has totally changed me for the better– and it will likely do the same for you, too!
5. Dogs are around-the-clock entertainment.
Puppies are the best free entertainment you can get these days. Even when Nala is sleeping, she’s so gosh darn cute that I just want to watch her sleep. She also loves to play (what puppy doesn’t?), and studies have shown that playing with your pet increases serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain.
6. Dogs get you outside.
Depression thrives in dark, quiet, and lonely places. If you’ve just moved to a new city and haven’t met any friends yet, you need to find the motivation to get outside. A puppy is a great way to do it. Time spent outdoors increases your vitamin D levels, keeps your bones strong, and can help counteract Seasonal Affective Disorder. Plus, it’s a nice break in your day, and watching your pup play can instantly boost the “happy chemicals” in your brain. Also, in my case specifically, I had a hard time getting myself dressed in the morning before getting Nala. I have a home office, so working in my pajamas is dangerously easy. I’m too embarrassed to walk her in my PJs, so I actually change into work clothes every morning. It’s wonderful.
7. Dogs connect you to your community.
Just like cute babies, puppies are conversation starters. On walks, you’re bound to stop and chat with other dog owners. Before getting Nala, I would go a full week without having face-to-face interaction with anyone other than Kyle. Now, I probably meet 4-5 new people every day. It’s not just from dog walks, either. You can meet like-minded owners at the vet, training classes, dog parks, and community events.
8. Dogs improve your communication skills.
I had no idea how much work and dedication would go into training our puppy. I also had no idea how many decisions Kyle and I would need to make together. From choosing the right pet food to adopting the same discipline techniques, a lot of communication is required in order to reach common ground. I know that’s true with children, but it’s also very much true with pets. Also, on the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve got to learn how to communicate with your puppy, too. You learn elements of positive (or negative, depending on your personal preferences) reinforcement that can shape your dog’s behavior for the rest of their lives. It makes you think about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it– and it inevitably makes you a better communicator in your every day life, too.
Finally, it goes without saying that puppies are a lot of work. They’re worth it, but they’re a lot of work. If you’re not in a place where you can comfortably care for a dog, wait until you’re confident that you can– or consider becoming a foster parent, dog walker, or pet babysitter. If you need some animal cuddles, animal cuddles are always available to you in some way, shape, or form!
Sources: Find Happiness with a Pet by Humana | How Service Dogs Help Humans with Anxiety and Depression by Rover