Your pet can be the best therapy. People are living closer in proximity to one another with our population increasing over the past couple of decades especially in metropolitan areas. Just because we live closer together doesn’t mean we are closer in attachment bonds in our society. These days we barely know our neighbors or even see them on a regular basis. With this isolation in living situation people don’t feel the closeness, sense of social engagement, or intimacy with others that they experienced in the past. This could be due in part to people not living in the same community throughout their lives when communication was more personal and travel wasn’t so widely available. This sense of isolation has created some emotional and unhealthy well-being for some people as loneliness is difficult to manage.
Studies show having a pet can increase emotional well-being as they can boost our immune system, decrease depressive symptoms, lower blood pressure, increase motivation, raise self-image, and instills trust in others. Having a pet can be a healthy and healing experience in that it is good Therapy. “Psychotherapy,” with a licensed professional aims to increase the individual’s sense of his/her own well-being.
It is estimated that 50 million households in America have pets. Pets don’t just include cats and dogs, but fish, hamsters, birds, reptiles, rabbits, guinea pigs, and exotic pets, as well. They compensate for some of the losses we feel in an ever increasing impersonal era and serve as sources of attachment in our lives. Pets are an important source of emotional attachment that can be as significant as, and sometimes even stronger than, the bonds form between people. Don’t underestimate the power of the love and affection your pet gives you. Some people I see in Counseling say because they Telecommute and work from home they seldom see people throughout the work week. If it weren’t for their loyal friends they would feel very lonely and isolated.
When we spend as little as 12 minutes with our dogs it sends Endorphins to the brain which acts as our body’s natural pain killers as they block stress and help us become more calm. More scientifically, according to Rebecca Johnson. Ph.D. Director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, Univ. of Missouri, states a healing occurs as neurochemical changes in our brain triggered by the interaction with the dog-human connection, referred to as the Vagus Nerve is stimulated when we see, hear, touch, and smell the dog. This nerve runs from the brain to our gut therefore triggers the relaxation response enabling us to become calm.
When this happens the stress hormone Cortisol decreases and Oxytocin and Prolactin increase. These are two “feel good” hormones that the body incurs to assist in a deterioration state – depression, illness, etc., to a growth state -where healthy new cells grow that promote healing leading to a more happier disposition.
So whatever pet you may cherish it’s the magic of animal assisted activity that’s the Therapy you already possess at home. While working with Individuals, Couples, Families, Children or Adults incorporating their pets into Counseling really does make a difference in how they view their environment. For more information on how you can implement your pet into everyday happy living please give me a call at (858) 735-1139.