We already know that being around animals – especially dogs – makes us feel happy. And if we get to pet or snuggle them? Even better! But now, we can confirm that petting dogs really does have an effect on our brains.
New research has shown us exactly how petting a dog ‘lights up’ certain parts of brains – and it’s just more proof that dogs make our lives better.
So, how does petting a dog impact your brain activity?
We have five senses and one of them is touch. You might think that touching something is a simple act, but it is actually a very complicated process in our bodies. In fact, our brain divides our sense of touch into three separate categories: pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant. These categories are sorted out in the anterior cingulate cortex part of the brain.
This particular part of the brain processes many of our emotions, so when we touch something ‘pleasant’ – it releases chemicals that create a happy and positive emotion. These chemicals are serotonin and dopamine – which are also triggered by drugs such as MDMA, cocaine, amphetamines, and alcohol.
Adorable video of animals hugging people below.
Petting a dog releases these two feel-good chemicals that improve our mood.
People who suffer from depression have low levels of serotonin and dopamine in their brains – so petting a dog can help relieve some of their symptoms. Not only does petting a dog have an impact on our bodies chemicals, but looking at them can do the same!
According to the research, staring into a dog’s eyes releases another feel-good chemical called oxytocin. It’s the same chemical that helps bond a mother and her baby, as well as creating altruism and trust. This, however, only applies to animals you have a relationship and bond with already. Unfamiliar animals will find extended eye contact threatening.
It’s no wonder why dogs are used as service and therapy animals to help relieve stress.
Therapy dogs have often been used to help reduce stress in students that are prepping for or taking an exam, people that are grieving the loss of a loved one, sick children in hospitals, and travelers in airports.
Cortisol is a chemical that is released when we’re stress – causing a plethora of unwanted negative effects on your body. Petting a dog can help reduce the amount of the chemical in your bloodstream.
In addition to these already mentioned amazing benefits, petting dogs can also help lower your blood pressure and reduce anxiety.
As if the benefits couldn’t get any better, people who own dogs tend to walk more, which can help curb and prevent obesity and lower the risk of diabetes and other weight-related illnesses. Getting outside also increases your intake of vitamin D from the sun, which has a positive effect on your brain as well.
Kids who grow up with a dog in the household have also been shown to have fewer allergies because their immune system has something to “practice on” such as the dog’s fur, saliva, and dander.
You can watch the sweetest video of animals hugging people below.
It’s well-known that people desire – and even need – touch in their lives.
A gentle, friendly, and supportive touch has been shown to releases serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, lower blood pressure and relieve stress – the same outcome you get from petting a dog. So when human touch is absent – a dog is a wonderful alternative.
As animal lovers, we already know how much dogs can improve our lives and make us happier – this is only more proof of that. So, set down your phone or get off your computer and go give your fur baby a big hug.
Watch the adorable video below of people cuddling with animals. It’s going to make your week.
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Source: I Heart Dogs