How Having A Dog Has Improved My Mental Health
If you don't know who those two hounds are, they are Josie & Edie. My two beloved sighthounds that have both come into my life within the last twelve months and they've changed my life in so many ways. The funny thing is that I used to be terrified of dogs, I was bitten as a child and it took me until I was 16 to start to feel confident around them again. Which if you've ever seen me around dogs now then that's probably hard to believe but never having a dog in my life as a child and a negative experience scared me so much. Over a year into dog mum life, there have been so many positives but the biggest change is my mental health and now it's not hard to see why therapy dogs are a thing and why they have such a good success rate.
IT'S NOT ABOUT ME ANYMORE
When I've really struggled with my mental state one thing is always clear, my brain makes me believe that everything is about me. And it's not a positive thing, even with the best people in the world around me when things aren't good in my brain I become very self-absorbed and cannot get out of my own head. With two dogs running around, even when I'm not feeling my best I have to think about them more than I think about myself. I have to get out of bed because they need feeding and be taken out as well as all the other things that young dogs need, they require a lot which is what I need to remember that my world isn't just about me anymore. Because those little pups rely on me and I have to be able to give them what they need and then some to make sure they have the best life I can give them.
If you work for yourself then you will know all about the crushing sense of loneliness that comes along with it. And now I don't live with my dad and my boyfriend is back on tour it would be all too easy for me not to speak to any other humans for days on end. Of course, the dogs are not humans and I know that but they do really help when it comes to feeling lonely. And because they make me leave the house it means that I have to see other humans. Just having the dogs around means that I've never felt super alone even though technically I'm living on my own and I think when you are on your own whether that's working or living it's so important to have an animal presence of some sort.
Something that I used to struggle with so, so much was getting outside in the cooler months. And although we're in a glorious summer right now before we know it A/W will be upon us and it's not exactly the nicest season for getting out in with the rain and wind slapping you in the face. Luckily my wardrobe choices are a lot smarter these days so I'm not stood around dithering in a leather jacket but still, it's hardly a nice thought stepping out the house when you know you'll instantly be cold. Before the dogs, I would hole myself up indoors and easily not leave the house for days but now whether I like to or not because the dogs need to get out and exercise I have to go out too. Last winter was the first time in years I went through the cold seasons without feeling like total garbage and I knew it was because I was getting out the house daily and even when it's not sunny it still has such a positive effect on your mood.
THEY DON'T TELL SECRETS AND THEY DON'T JUDGE
When it's just me and the dogs, or even when it's all of my little family together we talk the dogs constantly. Whether it's about what I'm doing with work or what I'm cooking for dinner I talk to the dogs a lot, it sounds weird but it's kinda nice. And the best thing is that when I'm venting to myself and they're sat next to me they are not sat there judging me and they won't go scampering off to someone else to tell them what I've said either. Even around someone that you completely trust and love you still probably have that fear and worry that they might judge you or think negatively of you but that's something you never have to worry about your pet doing.
faith in myself
Something that my brain is really good at doing is convincing me that I'm rubbish and incapable of achieving anything. But raising two dogs that are pretty well behaved [most of the time] has shown me otherwise. Seeing them grow and thrive is something that makes me feel proud of myself every single day. Because having any type of pet isn't easy, it's hard work and something we probably don't even recognise as an achievement.
There is a big difference between the love that we feel from humans and the love we feel from our animals. Both of my dogs love me unconditionally regardless of how I feel that day. I don't have to worry about making them mad with something I might have said or that I've not tidied the hoover cable up and having that relationship when you don't feel so amazing about yourself is really special. You know that really cliché saying that floats around the internet like 'strive to be the person your dog thinks you are'. Well, it's kind of true, your dog thinks you're the most amazing person out there and we could all probably stand to think a little more highly of ourselves. There have been days where I've been beside myself with intrusive OCD thoughts and the dogs can tell that I don't feel good and adjust themselves accordingly, they're so kind and loving without question. And even though there are times where they drive me absolutely crazy it doesn't take away from how much love I receive from them and how much they brighten my day by just being there.
the scientific facts
There are very few people in the world who I don't see smile when they see a dog, I'm always smiling at strangers dogs because they make me so happy. Last week when walking through one of my favourite woodland walks a fire had started and there were 5 fire engines and subsequently a lot of firefighters. Although they were probably all very stressed out trying to get everything under control they fussed Josie & Edie and you could see the smile break on their faces and that was such a good feeling to be able to give to someone else. It's been proven that fussing a pet releasing the feel-good hormones in your brain like dopamine and oxytocin. And who can argue with science that fussing puppies will make you happier?