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7 Ways Pets Contribute to Your Well-Being

7 Ways Pets Contribute to Your Well-Being

Pets make us happy. We dance with our pets, jump around with our pets, and even video tape our pets doing silly behaviors that make us laugh so hard we cry.

Sure, we get angry with them when they make us trip and fall or when they constantly beg for treats or scraps. There may even be times when you want to scream because your pet has had an accident in the house or chewed up your best pair of slippers. But just as much as they annoy us, they give us three times as much love and happiness. It is the ability of a pet to make us feel loved unconditionally and like we are their favorite person in the world.

In fact, pets can be so beneficial that many of them have become therapeutic assistants to people who suffer with mental illnesses, also known as emotional support animals.

Emotional support animals can go anywhere with their owners, even on airplanes. Veterans are examples of groups of people who qualify for an emotional support animal due to dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder after being in combat.

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Almost any animal can qualify as an emotional support animal, according to the National Service Animal Registry. Some of the disorders animals can help improve include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder and even eating disorders.

Many people think dogs are the best animal to use for emotional support; however, there are many different types of animals that can help a person reduce mental illness symptoms. Horses, rabbits, cats, reptiles, alpacas and even birds can have a positive impact on a person’s mental health. One of the main types, Equine Therapy or the use of horses, is becoming more popular in the mental health industry.

Horses

Psychological benefits from therapeutic horse riding include reduced feelings of insecurity and improved self-confidence.  It can also improve attention and concentration. Mental illnesses that can also benefit include autism, phobias, anxiety, nervousness, and aggressiveness.  Horses can also teach a person how to respect others.

Equine therapy is defined as experiential therapy using interactions between patients and horses. This can include riding horses or just petting horses. Some claim that just watching horses can be calming. They are such beautiful animals with great strength that watching them in action can help us have a more positive outlook.

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Dogs

Dogs are not being used to just assist those who are legally blind. They are not just used in law enforcement for forensics or sniffing out criminal activity. Today, dogs are offering mental health comfort from major disorders such as post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety. Dogs can be trained to be very sensitive to the emotional needs of a person, which makes them a great candidate for therapy assistance.

Mental Health Organization reports dogs can benefit people with mental health illnesses by assisting them in the areas of socialization and reducing loneliness. Dogs can also help kids with attention deficit disorder stay focused for longer periods of time. Furthermore, dogs have been found to help children with sensory issues due to autism.

Rabbits

Rabbits can make great therapeutic pets due to their mild nature. It is reported that rabbits are less aggressive because they are not predators. Holding a rabbit and petting it can offer a great deal of comfort to both the rabbit and the person in need of healing. They can be easily trained and are less allergenic than cats.

Humana reports that New York University Langhorne Medical Center in Manhattan actually has bunnies on staff to help patients of all kinds utilize different methods of healing. While it was not reported if they get a salary, the author did mention that they live on a floor of the hospital and patients ranging from children to the elderly like to visit them. The rabbits reportedly bring smiles and overall feelings of joy, even if for a little while. This small time with bunnies can bring huge benefits to the patient and give them a needed break from their recovery treatments.

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Alpacas

Modern Farmer magazine ran a story on a farm in New Jersey that connects people with mental illnesses of all kinds with their alpacas. Learning to handle alpacas can be difficult at times, but this can also be best for clients suffering from substance abuse or a mental disorder who need to learn to be responsible and put other’s needs before their own. Taking care of an alpaca can also give them a sense of accomplishment and offer them a feeling of pride.

Birds

As a therapy animal, birds may be used differently than a dog or cat. It is hard to put your bird on a leash and go hang out at the park. However, spending time with a therapy bird has proven to help some with mental illness. Some birds, such as parrots, can copy the words you state when you state them. If you say “hello” in a bright and chipper tone, so will the bird. If you speak in an angry or sad manner, the parrot will repeat it in that same manner. This may help you recognize when you are being negative versus when you are being positive. It can give you an insight as to how you sound to others and help you learn to think first before automatically feeling or acting negatively.

There are also benefits to just watching birds in their environment. Bird watching can teach a person patience and how to stay relaxed and calm rather than getting anxious. Bird watching can also improve a person’s ability to be reflective and introspective and can give people a sense of community. Bird watching is such a great distraction from any mental health issues you may be dealing with each day.

Cats

Cats are great for reducing anxiety and fear in children and adolescents. They teach  kids responsibility, offer them friendship and a distraction, as well as physical contact and social comfort. Cats can at times seem moody and detached and only want to be loved when they are ready to be loved. This sounds a lot like how people behave too, wanting to give or receive love only when the time is right for them. But when a cat is ready to give or receive love, it is worth the wait. They become cuddly and purr, which sounds a lot like happiness. The purring sound automatically makes the owner feel good. Knowing your cat is happy makes you happy.

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A study conducted on cat owners showed that 87 percent of those surveyed believed their cats have a positive impact on their wellbeing. They claim the cat’s purr can have a calming and relaxing effect on people who come home from a stressful day at work.

Animal Wellness magazine states a cat’s purr has healing benefits. Not only do the sounds of the purrs make us relax and reduces our stress, some claim that the vibrations from the purrs can have healing effects on physical ailments such as joint aches or headaches. The author goes so far as to relate that cats know where your aches are and tend to lay down next to the parts of your body that need healing. For instance, if you have a headache, the cat will know to lay down by your head!

Reptiles

This may seem scary to some, but snakes and lizards can cause comfort. While some people have a phobia of reptiles, others view them as relaxing.

Therapy snakes treat depression. Therapy snakes are reptiles that have been trained specifically to work with people who have mental illnesses.  A lot of time and effort has gone into this process. It would not be a good idea to go find the nearest snake in your backyard or neighboring forest to try your own form of therapy. This may not end well.

But when working with trained snakes that are used to being handled, they can give a person a sense of achievement.  It has also been noted that snakes are not judgmental and enjoy being handled. In fact, some researchers claim snakes prefer being handled by an owner.

Americans spend millions of dollars getting animals vaccinated, treated and cured at the veterinarian. Great lengths are taken to bury a pet—some even having funerals for their pets. We buy photos, clothing, specialty food, and even psychics for the animals we love. Some people even have their animals stuffed after their passing. We take them to the store, on vacations, to the park and even to specialty animal events. This tells us one major thing: animals have a positive effect on us and our overall well-being. We connect with animals through an unconditional love and a relationship made of mutual nourishment. Using animals to help us deal with emotional disabilities is a great fit for both the animals and the person in need.

More by this author

Adam Gerbman

CSO - Vantage Point Mental Health

7 Ways Pets Contribute to Your Well-Being

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Last Updated on August 20, 2018

35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

Every mature relationship has had a less-than-memorable anniversary. Maybe one of you forgot, or both of you got busy with work, kids, family issues, or something else. Whatever happened, the day came and went without fanfare. And neither of you seemed to notice or much care.

But for the health of any relationship, it’s important to make important days feel special. Anniversaries offer the wonderful opportunity to relive beautiful memories, practice gratefulness for your partner, and to show your love and strengthen your bond. Make this year’s anniversary with your significant other something special  — one that will bring you closer together.

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The best way to create a memorable anniversary is to do something new and different together as a couple. Stretch yourselves a bit.

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While boredom can silently kill a relationship, new experiences reinforce the shared bond you already have and create strong new memories. Just think back to the most significant memories you have right now with your spouse and imagine what new ones you can create!

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While you enjoy your chosen anniversary activity, be sure to keep a positive attitude and make your partner happy too on that day. Leave all arguments and day to day detail behind. Just celebrate your relationship. Whether you’re going to spend the day together at home, getting away, or having a wild and crazy new experience together, you can have your best anniversary yet!

If You’re Staying In

  1. Spend an evening with no technology, just the two of you and maybe a board game. It’s hard to keep ourselves away from our computers and smartphones long enough to have a meaningful conversation. Make a rule not to use your tech and you’ll rekindle your relationship!
  2. Make wine or beer together. If you enjoy drinking together, this is a fun activity to try together. Just remember to buy the necessary equipment ahead of time.
  3. Learn something new about each other. With an open mind, try asking some of the New York Times’ 36 questions that lead to love. They’ll help spark intimacy and will lead to some really honest moments.
  4. Have a lazy day. Breakfasts in bed, spend all day in bed talking and napping. Follow breakfast with champagne and dessert! If you feel like getting more active, cook together or play some games. Here’re some simple breakfast ideas for you.
    • Learn to dance at home. This is best for those active couples who work out together and also enjoy learning something new together. Just go on Youtube to find any music with dance tutorials and learn together.
    • Visit model homes or open houses and plan your dream home.
    • Have a special dessert – champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. Having an unusual treat makes a day feel extra special. If you want to make the dessert really special, try these tasty dessert recipes.
    • Create a playlist of your favorite songs as a couple. Choose songs that tell your story, and songs that you bonded over throughout your relationships. Here’re some love songs ideas for your inspirations.
      • Write your love story. Write it together or ave each of you write your own and then bring them together in an interesting, both sides of the story format.
      • Get a fondue pot. Fondue is a fun way to enjoy melted cheeses (for savory items) and melted chocolate (for sweeter treats).
      • Decorate! Turn your home into a dressed-up french cottage, a sophisticated restaurant, or simply with flowers. The different ambience will immediately change the feel of your home and make it feel like a staycation.
        • Talk about the future together. It might sound simple and everyday, but imagining how you want to spend your retirement together, or planning future trips can be exciting and romantic.

        If You Want to Get Away

        1. Take a day trip together to your favorite spot. If you live in a city, it can be incredibly refreshing to get away for an afternoon and drink in the outdoors.
        2. Go on a scenic drive and stop at a wine and cheese bar. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have lots of options where you live, try a brewpub. There are tons of small craft breweries with fantastic food options too.
        3. Go camping. Relatively affordable and, if the weather’s right, beautiful and romantic.
          • Take an overnight backpacking trip. For the more adventurous couples, backpacking is an even more intense way to challenge yourself physically while becoming one with nature.
          • Take a wine tasting tour. If you live on the West Coast or in the Northeast, take a drive to the nearest winery. Many offer relatively inexpensive tastings and deals if you purchase a certain amount.
          • Take a scenic train trip. Taking the train means less stress traveling: nobody has to drive, you don’t have to stop for breaks every few hours, and you can sleep if you need to!
          • Save up for a destination vacation. What better time than your anniversary to enjoy the beach at a beautiful resort?
          • Explore a new city. Whether you’re on a budget or have a lot saved up, you can have a great time just exploring an unfamiliar town.
          • Rent a cabin for a weekend away, in the woods or next to a lake or ocean. If you like the outdoors but can only take so much nature, try glamping.
            • Go on a retreat. Yoga retreats, meditation retreats, beautiful natural surroundings … they’re all the rage. Search for centeredness and calm with your partner.
            • Spend a day at a food festival. Many cities have fun and affordable food festivals, occasionally based on a theme. Check out your town’s (or a nearby city) calendar for inspiration!

            New & Exciting Experiences

            1. Go spelunking. Dark, damp, and utterly exciting!
            2. Go on a hot air balloon ride. Because the basket is relatively small, this can be a romantic and deeply personal – and yet thrilling –
              experience.
              • Try sky diving. If you and you S.O. are real thrill-seekers, sky diving can really push you to the edge!
              • Explore the underwater world by snorkeling or scuba diving. This may take you far away from where you normally live and work, which is an added bonus.
              • Experience white water rafting.
              • Drive or hike to the highest spot nearby for a new view of the world. America has tons of beautiful mountains where challenging hikes (or drives) can deliver breathtaking views.
              • Take a craft or cooking class. Up your craft skills or food  making skills, and enjoy something new!
                • Take a wine and painting class today. These classes are easily found these days and even a beginning painter can create a nice painting. Challenging but relaxing, fun, and you get to go home with some artwork!
                • Learn to salsa dance. Dancing is a fantastic way to actively get closer and coordinate physically with one another.
                  • Visit a nearby festival you’ve always wanted to go to. Have fun and let go with fellow audience-members!
                  • Spend the day at an amusement park together. Laugh and carry on like teenagers.
                  • Meet new people! At a restaurant, concert, or class, make it a point to meet new friends. Striking up conversation with someone you don’t know – but with whom you have shared interests – can be an adventurous and rewarding experience.

                  Whether your budget is big or small, and whether you have a little or a ton of time together, focus on each other. There are tons of options, in terms of location, level of physical activity, and cost. You can make the day special in a way that’s right for you!

                  Featured photo credit: Photo by Taylor L. Spurgeon on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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