When I mention love, intimacy, comfort, friendship, companionship, and the keeper of your heart, do you think of a DeBeers diamonds are forever commercial? I don’t either. I think of Pup. I bet that I’m not alone. Many of us in the fibromyalgia and chronic illness communities think of our pets when it comes to all things related to love and the heart. But, did you know that your pet has the power to heal, too?
Yes, when it comes to love, we do think of our human loved ones, but for this post, we’re looking at the obvious and sometimes surprising health benefits of our furry companions.
Whether your loved one has fur, feathers, fins, or fangs – spending time with your pet (or pets) can bring on healing benefits far beyond your imagination.
Here are just 20 Ways Furry Love Can Help You Heal:
- 1) Pets don’t care how we look – they love us in an evening dress or a house dress. They even love us in sweatpants and slippers (I’ve done my own R&D on this).
- 2) Pets intuit our high and low energy days. They know when we need that extra bit of TLC.
- 3) Gazing into the eyes of a beloved pet (or even a beloved person), sends a rush of healing, “feel good” hormones into the body – serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin for starters. This lowers pain, improves mood, and reduces fatigue/increases energy levels, and more. (BTW, this even works with photographs as long as the subject looks directly at the camera).
- 4) Stroking or petting a furry loved one lowers blood pressure, anxiety levels, and brings on a sense of peace and calm. (Didn’t need me to tell you that, did you?)
- 5) The topic of pets provides a great opportunity for conversations, bonding, and sharing with others.
- 6) Owning a pet is good for the heart – literally. Pet owners enjoy lower risk of heart disease and direct healing benefits for those who have suffered heart attacks.
- 7) Pets increase the odds that we’ll engage in fitness activities – whether we feel like it or not! (We’ll often do for our pets what we won’t do for ourselves….)
- 8) Keeping our pets healthy provides us with opportunities to learn more about nutrition. When it comes to whole foods, removing grains as “fillers,” and looking for quality over quantity – what’s good for our pets is good for us, too!
- 9) Cuddling up with a furry loved one is a sure-fire cure for the blues. Sharing unconditional love is one of the things pets do best.
- 10) Pets provide ample ways to reduce our stress levels. De-stressing with a pet can even lower cholesterol levels (a known indicator of stress).
- 11) Pets can increase our sense of light-hearted fun and play. Have you ever tantalized a kitten with a feather tied to the end of a string?
- 12) Pets help us to stick to a healthy structure and routine for the day.
- 13) Pets help to boost memory, the immune system, improve depression, lower overall inflammation, and more for the elderly, disabled, and the frail.
- 14) Therapy dogs have been used to bring “creature comforts” for the sick and infirmed in hospitals, nursing homes, physical therapy centers, and in treatment centers for special needs children.
- 15) Guide dogs aren’t just for those with vision impairments. Specialized canine companions (and other animals, too) can be trained to help their owners reach, pull, or open things, avoid toxic chemicals, and more. Some animals can even sniff cancer at levels before it’s detectable by testing, and can predict epileptic seizures.
- 16) Pets serve as a source of positive, non-verbal (not to mention non-judgmental!) communication.
- 17) Pets provide a bit of warmth for those of us with aching bodies. Pets can snuggle up next to our backs, our legs, or other beneficial positions while we rest. Some offer a strategically placed paw or chin exactly where (and when) we need it most.
- 18) Pets and service animals help to elevate self-esteem for children with disabilities. It’s amazing to read about the research being done with autistic children and horses. By the way, this self-esteem boost works for adults, too!
- 19) Pets provide us with an easy way to engage in our communities. We can chat with others while walking our pets, sitting at a dog park, or drinking tea at an outdoor coffee patio (with our furry loved ones nestled under the table).
- 20) Pets allow us an opportunity for deep thinking. They help us to discover joy and to ponder a deeper sense of meaning to life. They can even bring us hope for a better future.
Of course, not all of us have the opportunity to share our homes with pets. Many may live in facilities or with financial constraints that make pets impossible or impractical. However, if you’ve got additional love to share in your home with a furry companion, please consider adoption. Sites such as PetFinder.com can provide a great place to start your search.
This list, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve detailed 20 ways our pets can bring us healing, but I can imagine 200 more. Do you have pet-friendly tips to add? Please share your comment below!
At this time of the year, we hear LOTS of healing benefits regarding chocolate. While some are true, might I suggest that instead of a Valentine’s Day box of chocolates, you instead indulge in a Chocolate Lab?