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Mounting deadlines at work? Bills? Is your tire pressure sensor light on again? Or worse, you just realized you burnt through your last aromatherapy candle? Whatever the source may be, stress is real and on the rise. But no need to worry.

In fact:

Finding bliss can be just a belly rub away.

Along with making us feel happy inside, studies suggest that regularly spending time with dogs can help reduce anxiety and depression and lead to an overall better mood, among other health benefits.

Ok, so maybe nothing echos stress relief like an exotic vacation in the tropics somewhere. But if you’re looking for an easy (and more affordable) solution right now, the answer is just four feet (or paws) away. Plus, you can get in some serious bonding time with your canine counterpart.

Read on for our list of 5 simple ways to have fun and be stress-free (well almost) with your dog:

  1. Go on a wag or walkabout

    Long day at the office? Make movement your medicine, and remember to bring the dog. Physical activities, like walking help release endorphins, your feel-good hormones, which can reduce stress.

    Along with getting a chance to walk off some steam (and improve your mental health), walking the dog can lead to lower body max index and fewer visits to the doctor’s office.

    Plus, studies have found that walking can work quickly to improve your mood, just in case seeing that slobbery smile was enough to brighten your day.

    If your schedule permits, this could be the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in Mother Nature with a trip to a National Park that allows dogs.

    BONUS: If you visit a national forest, you can also reap the benefits of forest bathing, another practice that can lead to reduced stress and enhanced well-being.

  2. Road trip with Rover

    Sometimes, you need a change of scenery to change your state of mind.

    Don’t forget to pack your pup, and this doesn’t mean you have to ruff it. There are plenty of hotel rooms that allow dogs.

    “Pleasant tactile interactions” (like petting your pup) are thought to play a role in the release of oxytocin, which in turn can help reduce stress.

    By booking a room for you and your canine cohabitant, you can really maximize on some extra snuggles. Plus, there’s nothing like a little pampering for you and your pooch.

    BONUS: Bringing your pup along for the road trip can also help remind you to stick to your daily exercise routine. While the scenery may have changed, those games of fetch can happen anywhere.

  3. Doggy dinner date

    Meeting up with someone for the first time? Or just not feeling super social tonight? You might need a wingman, like the kind that never leaves your side and always looks super cute (i.e. your dog).

    So, the next time eating out is mentioned, go to a restaurant where you can bring your dog.

    Letting your new date gush over your adorable four-legged friend is the perfect icebreaker, and it could help reduce the anxiety that comes with any awkward conversation.

    You might still end up wishing you swiped left. But it’s nothing that a few tail wags can’t help diffuse.

  4. Canines and cabernet

    Is it time for a wine down? Bring your canine counterpart.

    With corkhounds.com, you can find wineries and tasting rooms across the country that allow dogs. (Because nothing complements a good glass of Gewürztraminer like your good boy or girl.)

    Plus, wine tasting can be a fun group activity, and laughter is the best medicine.

    Whatever the occasion, you can sip your stress away (in moderation of course) surrounded by good company (including your best four-legged friend).

    BONUS: If you’re a red wine fan, you can also drink in the health benefits of resveratrol for good skin. Now that’s something we can all cheers to.

  5. See Spot run (on the beach)

    When it’s time to seas the day, bring your dog.

    Spending time by the ocean is the perfect way to soak up some negative ions and offset our over-exposure to the positive ions we’re exposed to on a daily basis from laptops, smartphones and other electronic devices. This over-exposure can affect your magnetic field, leaving you feeling drained and lethargic.

    The good news is that if there’s a high concentration of them in the air, like near the ocean, they can have an antidepressant effect in as little as 30 minutes.

    Want more good news? There are many dog-friendly beaches across the country. Just make sure to pack provisions for your pooch like extra water, a towel, healthy treats (SmartyPaws) and possibly sunscreen.

    It’s important to note that salt water from the ocean is toxic for dogs. So make sure to bring extra water to keep your fur baby hydrated and minimize the risk of them drinking any from the ocean.

    BONUS: Up the anti-stress benefits of beaching it with Benji by going for a walk or run in the sun. Plus, by soaking up some rays, you can also help your body produce vitamin D.

There’s a reason we call them man’s best friend. No matter what life throws at us, our faithful companions are there to lend a paw.

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