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The therapy dogs at Walter Reed are not magic. (OK, maybe a little bit.)

When you're going through something really hard, sometimes what you need is a warm, fuzzy, adorable distraction.

The therapy dogs at Walter Reed are not magic. (OK, maybe a little bit.)
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The magic science is compelling. Therapy dogs really do seem to help sick and injured people recover.

Therapy dogs like those at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the above video by Military Health aren't random dogs from a local shelter. These are highly trained, certified dogs with handlers. Therapy and emotional support dogs have been shown to help veterans break out of their emotional shells, leading to more productive therapy sessions and better relationships with loved ones.

More research is needed into how exactly therapy dogs help mitigate the problems that wounded veterans experience, but we've known for a very long time that having pets — especially dogs — grants some pretty serious health benefits.


Why do dogs make us feel good?

One big reason: They stimulate our brains to create oxytocin.

Quick neurochemistry lesson:

Oxytocin is a hormone that the brain excretes during certain social interactions. It does a few neat magic tricks on the mind and the body. Scientists have found that oxytocin:

  • helps us bond with our friends, romantic partners, and family (especially children),
  • prompts our bodies to heal themselves,
  • helps us trust each other, and
  • reduces anxiety, fear, and stress.

How awesome is all that?

This awesome:

Do you think a dog can have an impact on happiness?

Go pet your dog and then tell me. If you don't have a dog, pet someone else's dog. (But always ask first.)

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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