Have You Hugged Your Pets Today?
I think everyone gave a sigh of relief at midnight on December 31, 2020. The most troubling and stressful year in recent memory was finally over. A devastating pandemic, social and physical isolation, widespread unemployment and business loss, a national spotlight on the very real issue of racial inequality, damaging riots and looting, and an extremely divisive and disputed presidential election all weighed heavily on peoples’ emotions. We all looked forward to seeing improvements in 2021. Then January 6, 2021 and an unprecedented assault on our very foundation of democracy hit us like a ton of bricks. A new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus is threatening us in 2021, as well as fears of continued assaults on our government and the rule of law.
Amidst these worrisome and frightening scenarios, there is a source of unconditional love in our homes that can help ease our minds as we grapple with the uncertain world. Of course, I am talking about our pets.
Pets have long been recognized as important resources for reducing anxiety and stress. Just petting or playing with a pet can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and release endorphins that have calming effects on our bodies and minds. Exercising with pets, such as walking a dog or riding a horse, enhance our physical health and help to reduce depression. Pets are especially impactful as we face the challenges of social isolation, providing companionship and structured routines throughout each day. The unconditional love of an animal helps us buffer the stressors that enter our lives.
The healthy impact of pets is remarkable. Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than those without pets. Heart attack patients with pets survive longer that those without. Pet owners over the age of 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets. Even hardened criminals in prison show long-term changes in their behavior when participating in animal related programs.
Pets are used to assist veterans with PTSD and serve as emotional support animals to others. Horses in therapeutic riding programs provide disabled riders with a sense of freedom and mobility they could otherwise not experience.
Pets aren’t limited to dogs and cats. Horses are wonderful companions, as I can attest. Rabbits make great pets for those who are allergic to dogs and cats. Keeping and watching fish have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and calm your heart rate. Having pets give our lives purpose and meaning. Adopting or fostering pets from your local animal care center can add a sense of fulfillment by providing a loving home to an animal in need. If you are ready to add a pet to your home, I encourage you to visit one of Los Angeles County’s seven animal care centers to bring an added sense of enrichment into your life.
As we enter 2021, let’s refocus on the joy that animals bring to our lives. Pull yourself away from the distractions of today and connect with the animals in your life. We all benefit from their constant love, devotion, and companionship. And, they benefit from ours.