Now more than ever, we all need to enjoy time outside! There are lots of reasons to get outdoors, too, and those reasons multiply if your dog is by your side.
We know the physical health benefits of time spent outside: lower stress, boosted immunity, less inflammation, improved memory, even reduced anxiety and depression. And those benefits are from simply being outdoors. Adding exercise like walking, jogging, trail running, or hiking pile on benefits like increased cardiovascular health and stronger muscles.
We also know that our dogs encourage us to get outside and exercise, and our dogs help us turn daily exercise into a habit. Studies show dogs get us moving far more than our non-dog-owning counterparts, which means we dog lovers live longer, healthier lives.
But there’s so much more to it than just those physical benefits. There are mental health benefits to spending time outdoors with your dog, as well. Here are a few key highlights:
Mindfulness reduces stress and can improve overall health in all sorts of ways. Most people think of meditation or yoga when it comes to mindfulness, but according to an article published by Harvard Medical School, we can learn how to stay in the present moment—being mindful—through walking our dogs. “Notice how joyously present she is when out in the world: her head is up, her tail is wagging, and she's alert and taking it all in. She is open to new sights, smells, sounds, people, and animals. Each walk is an adventure (HMS).” Follow your dog’s lead and stay focused on the walk in front of you to reap mental health rewards.
Studies show that both being outside and having a dog decreases depression. Put them together? You have a mood-boosting motivator! The great news is that to make the most of the elevated mood, you don’t need to travel far or deep into the woods--though, obviously, if you do that’s great, too! All you need to do is leash up your pup, lace up your sneakers, and walk around the block. The fresh air and the Vitamin D you’ll soak up will help you feel better in no time.
When you go for a walk outdoors, you’re likely to spot other walkers. Even waving ‘hi’ from a distance boosts your sense of wellbeing and connection. You’ll also improve your connection with your dog--and a stronger bond means a stronger sense of happiness and security. Loneliness is now considered an epidemic; getting outdoors with your dog combats that by forging connection!
There’s no better time than right now to take advantage of all the mental health benefits to spending time outdoors with your dog. You don’t need a huge amount of time or fancy gear. You don’t need forested paths or big parks. Just clip on your dog’s leash, put on your shoes, and head outside together!