“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, and filling an emptiness we didn’t ever know we had.”
– Thom Jones
For many of us, our home is just a house unless there is something with four legs and a tail sharing the space with us. Our pets are not only cuddly and cute, they give us unconditional love.
But it turns out our pets actually offer us more than “just” unconditional love; they seem to also have the ability to help our physical and mental well-being.
Research has found that the bond we share with our animals can do everything from improve our cardiovascular health to lower our cholesterol and decrease our blood pressure.
Beyond these physical health benefits, our animal companions can help our mental and emotional life as well. Here are some ways your pet is better than medication.
Our Pets Teach Us Mindfulness
Have you ever just watched your dog or cat find a swath of sun as it streams into your house in the afternoon? They seem to luxuriate in the warmth and energy of the sun in those moments. Nothing else matters to them but enjoying the feeling of the sun on their body.
Our pets can teach us how to be more mindful and enjoy every moment of our life if we let them. Studies have shown that mindful meditation, which simply means to be fully in the present moment, helps alleviate stress and anxiety.
Let your pets be an example and try and spend more time just “being” instead of “doing” so much.
Pets Relieve Stress
Let’s face it, each of us faces our fair share of stress in life. But research has shown that our dogs and cats act as de-stressors. This is why a growing number of companies such as Atlantic Health System, Mars Inc., Amazon, and Etsy, to name a few, are allowing employees to bring their dog to work.
College students are a segment of the population that also feels a lot of stress. When the University of British Columbia brought therapy dogs on campus, allowing a group of 246 students to pet and cuddle them, the students reported their stress levels decreased significantly after the interaction.
Pets Offer Empathy
There are numerous accounts of war veterans who, when they experience pain and agitation, are comforted by their service dog who will run into the room, somehow sensing their need for empathy.
Recent findings from the University of Vienna suggest that dogs can sense emotions and even differentiate between good and bad ones. There are numerous reports of cats living in nursing homes, sensing when someone is about to pass and going to lie on their bed.
The long and short of it is, when we are feeling tired, scared, sad and alone, our pets are there to remind us that we are not alone and that they love us very much. For those of you who have pets, hold them tight and show them your appreciation. For those of you that don’t have pets, it may be time to take a trip to the local shelter. If you’re interested in having a pet join your therapy session, that’s also an option at Modern Change. Just ask your therapist.
Modern Change provides psychotherapy for for improving mental health in Durham, NC.
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