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Pawsitive Healing: How Do Dogs Help with Anxiety?

Wellness Woman doing yoga with her dog

I don't think we deserve dogs. In my opinion they are just way too pure for this world. Our four legged friends inspire us to be our best. They are extremely loyal and can PAWSitivley impact our well-being. My wonderful rescue dog is not an official therapy dog(and I don’t want to take away the importance of trained therapy and service dogs at all) but she helps me get through the day. So how do dogs help with anxiety? How do they help with other struggles of ours? Regular everyday life has always been stressful for me to get through. My husband and I struggle with many things most people find easily. A common road block of ours is we struggle to shift from one task to another. So whether it be any of my symptoms or just run-of-the-mill hard days, my dog really helps me get through. If you battle with ADHD, anxiety, depression or lack of motivation, there are many ways your furry friend can help. It is important to note that animals are not treatment plans and they don't replace therapy and medication.

Change of Scenery

Most days I have great energy and I am super motivated. On other days I want to get things done, but I have trouble getting started or it's near impossible to focus. Some days I can be SO DARN STUCK! When I find it hard to get out of my chair, or when I want to but my brain won’t do it, my dog will bring me her ball, wanting to play.

I'll toss her ball across the room and she will chase after it faster than Xfinity high-speed internet. When she brings the ball back a second time and wags her tail, I can’t help but want to get up and play with her some more. Usually after a few minutes of play, I will be feeling energized enough to get things I want to get done.

When I feel too stressed to get my errands done I will take her with me. In between going to the jewel and the bank I'll Take her to a dog bakery or other dog-friendly stores.There is a neat little mall near us that is dog friendly. She makes the excruciatingly difficult and boring parts of life all the more bearable.

Movement Movement Movement

My dog actually walks me. Dogs need walks. They need fresh air. Now, my brain will take any excuse I come up with to skip out on exercise. I can’t and won’t do that with my dog. A big part of having any dog or pet is making sure they get their exercise. She helps me to see that putting my shoes on and getting ready is worth it. It has been scientifically proven that when you take part in consisitiant physical activity you are reducing symptoms of anxity, depression,releasing endorphins and imporving your overall well being.

Mindfulness and Canine Companionship

I have been a much calmer person since we got our dog.

woman high living her dog

She is easily frightened by yelling and loud noises, especially when the neighbors are too loud. My husband and I have always wanted to create a peaceful loving home. A home where everyone feels safe, heard, valued and loved.When my husband and I have a disagreement, our sweet dog helps to remind us to take a step back, regulate ourselves, and proceed calmly. I’m reminded to use my coping skills like deep breaths, yoga, and art. My dog encourages us not to get lazy and to work on fighting fair. That involves our active listening skills and healthy communication. Our dog also encourages us to enjoy the moment. My husband and I do tend to live in the moment, but we don't always enjoy our present moment.Worry tends to creep in like a stealthy unwanted guest. Sometimes our adult obligations weigh to heavy on us to even crack smile. Dogs are pretty grounded in the present moment. Instead of fixating on worried and getting stuck in a loop of intrusive thoughts pause for a moment and give your dog a scratch. Give yourself a reminder that there is such good in the world, and that their is a playful pup that needs your attention. This is your life! It's happening right now. Stop waiting for it to start and enjoy what is infant of you. Take a moment to forget that your boss put you on a PIP. Enjoy a moment of peace with your fur baby.

Dogs as Social Gardian Angels

I love talking to people and making new friends. I am also a strong believer in community. In fact I think American culture lacks strong community as a whole. Problem is ,I'm really not that great at it.

a person petting someone else's  dog

I struggle with introducing myself and small talk.. And here in the Chicago suburbs, people really don’t come up and talk to you unless they know you.It's not like when I lived in Tennessee or Hawaii where people that will come up and talk to you like your an old friend are in the plenty. Without realizing it, on my hard days I tend to stay in my apartment and isolate myself. Sometimes even when I went to be out in about I can't. My dog makes for a wonderful ice breaker. Even around people I know, I am always more relaxed if I bring my dog. She helps me feel safe walking by myself around town. I get to talk to people who would normally pass me by. It also feels good when people smile wanting to pet her. Even when my dog is not around she is a good way to meet great people. I have found that if people have pets the LOVE talking about them. I have bonded with several new co-workers of mine just by showing pictures of our dogs. Stressed out introverts at a party can meet new people by talking about their dogs. I do it all the time and it has been such a life saver.

Un'Leashing' Routine and Structure

Our furry babies have a way of keeping us accountable. I have got to be honest I hate routine. They have always seemed so ghastly horrid and boring. I've been learning though that everyone needs some sort of rhythm to their day. Especially those of us with ADHD, we need a blue print of the day too follow lest we get sucked into the easy trap of phone scrolling all day. We need structure but that doesn't mean everything had to be the same all the same. Every good dog parent knows that its important to keep their furry baby on a good schedule. Schedules help them feel safe and it helps the human brain feel safe as well. We all need stability in our ever increasingly uncertain world. Don't think of routine as a cage, but rather a garden trellis where you can spread your leaves and grow towards the sun. All dogs need to eat, be played with, walked, bathed, ect.. each day. You can structure your day around your dogs needs and this can help you with your time management an organization.On they days where it is extremely hard to stick to your routine, your dog is their to help give you a sense of routine.

Nurturing Responsibility and Purpose

In just about every family tv show or movie there is a kid that ask their parents for a dog. Every parent answers," A dog is a big responsibility..........aaaand I don't want to get stuck taking care of it." In all truth though, the responsibility of a dog might be just what a person needs. As people, we crave meaning and purpose. Motivation can be a huge struggle even for the best of us. Between AP Classes, Bills, rising costs, masking your neurodivergency, toxic workplaces it can be easy to slip into a place where someone might feel aimless, replaceable and sad. A dog can provide that first spark of wanting to create a better life for you and your furry friend. In a way caring for a dog creates a sense of accomplishment. Think about it, if you hadn't adopted your furry friend no one else might have. You were exactly who your doggie needed.

Self-Acceptance and Dog's Unconditional Love

From the time that we are ever so little we are bombarded with negative messages. The overall theme of these messages is you are not enough. You need to do more and you need to be more. You should be taking more advanced classes. You should be making more money."Really? You drive that kind of car?You must have made all the wrong decisions up till this point huh!" Is the evil little voice we hear in our ears every day from the world. Things have been changing so fast its no wonder you feel like you just can't keep up. In our society, it seem like our authentic selves are not enough. We feel enormous pressure to be the perfect partner, family member, co-worker. Our dogs do not expect these things from us. A dogs love is like a balm for your soul. We are amazing in their eyes without having to do anything. Dogs offer us reprieve from a very judge world. Their love knows no bounds. When I have those days where I epically fail, my dog is happy to see me reminding me I am loved, quirks and all! They trust us to give them their food and water everyday. In your dog's eyes, you are enough. They sense when you are not ok, and can be a calming presence. Your Dog reminds you that you are absolutely worthy of love. Through, their big eyes and wiggly tails they teach us self acceptance.

And So, to wrap it all up...........

When it comes to heal thing and personal growth, our dogs have this amazing ability to uplift our well-being. They give us companionship, motivate us to go outside, help establish good routines, keep us social, and of course encourage our self acceptance through their unmatchable unconditional love.

Dogs can be very helpful to those with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and those that find the their motivation went on vacation. Our Dogs definitely have a PAWsitive impact on our lives. Yes, dogs are a lot of work but they can help us in our journey towards happiness, authenticity and self acceptance.

So, if you haven't already, welcome a dog into your life. There is a furry friends out there that is eager to help you face all of life's challenges.

Hi! I am Paulie D. from Notes from My Hammock. I write about living authentically, mindfulness, wellness, and self-expression.

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