Study Shows Playing with Dogs Can Make You Happier and Less Stressed

A recent study conducted in South Korea has revealed promising insights into the mental health benefits of interacting with dogs. Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the research indicates that activities such as playing, walking, massaging, and grooming dogs can significantly reduce depression and stress levels while simultaneously boosting relaxation and concentration.

The study involved 30 adult participants who engaged in various activities with a well-trained, four-year-old female poodle. Using electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes, researchers measured brain activity during these interactions, uncovering interesting findings about the effects of different activities on brain waves.

Specifically, playing with and walking the dog led to an increase in alpha-band oscillations, reflecting a state of ‘relaxed wakefulness’, while activities like grooming, massaging, or playing with the dog increased beta-band oscillation strength, typically associated with heightened concentration levels.

Moreover, participants reported significant improvements in their emotional well-being after engaging in dog-related activities. Regardless of the activity, participants felt less fatigued, depressed, and stressed after interacting with the dog.

They recorded their subjective emotional state after each activity, highlighting the positive impact of dog interaction on mood and stress levels. These findings have significant implications for the field of animal-assisted interventions (AAI), suggesting that AAI could be prescribed to bolster mental health, offering an alternative or complementary approach to traditional therapy.

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By tailoring AAI programs to include specific dog activities such as playing, walking, massaging, and grooming, the therapeutic benefits for individuals can be maximized. Hospitals, schools, and other environments could incorporate AAI programs to reduce anxiety, relieve stress, and foster feelings of trust among participants.

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