You might be saying, “duh” right now that pets can help you with mindfulness and loneliness. Or, maybe the connection isn’t as clear to you yet. Have you owned a pet before? How did your pet make you feel? If you have had one, you probably remember the times you were doing something and then had to completely shift your focus because your pet did x, y or z. Or, the times when you were running around the house, then stopped to hang out with your pet because it just felt good for a minute (or… a mindful moment). See what we did there?
Pets help us shift our focus, sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the “not so good” like when you have to clean up a mess. Yet, either way, they can take our attention from our heads to our hearts and that unconditional love they give (except for a few swarmy cats perhaps!) is a trait humans should be aiming for each day.
How Pets Can Help You With Mindfulness
Recently, we came across an article in Mindful Magazine about pets and mindfulness. First, they started with the numbers. How many of us own pets? About 93% according to their reader survey. And, about 44% have one, with 29% (ish) with two. Just 2% of the survey takers had 10+ (maybe horses?? or a menagerie!). Approximately 32% prefer canines and 17% felines. Woof. And Meow!
There were some really amazing answers as to how pets can help you with mindfulness. Here are a few of our favorite responses:
“They encourage me to be still with them, to sit in silence, and concentrate on touch.”
“When I wake up to let my dogs out in the morning, they stretch their bodies and take in their environment. They do their business and then just sit. Observing. When the wind blow by, they lean into it. They smell it and just sit.”
“Petting him I’m reminded to pay attention and be WITH him as I pet him. And feed him.”
“Cats live in the moment. They know how to pause, observe, respond. They soak up the sunshine.”
Pets Can Offer Some Level of Therapy
While we always recommend seeing a professional counselor if you’re feeling overwhelmed, unappreciated, angry, out of control, lost, depressed, anxious… (well, anytime really, because having a therapist in your life is so beneficial in so many ways), pets do offer a level of comfort and emotional therapy in a way. Studies have shown that petting a purring cat can lower your blood pressure. And, taking your dog on a walk increases your activity level and gets you some of that good old Vitamin D (sunshine).
Do you ever casually talk to your pet? If you’re like 98% of the survey respondents, then you’re 100% normal! It’s nice sometimes to have a pet to talk to, even if they only respond in body language (that’s actually a bonus). They help with loneliness and grow our heart muscles. As long as you are physically and mentally responsible enough to have a pet, we highly recommend it. They make life, well, better.
Lessons Our Pets Teach Us
As we all know, nothing is always sunshine and rainbows though. There are challenges with pets, and the number one is always that they leave us too quickly. Our sweet Maggie girl left us last year and left a big hole in our hearts. Another pup will never take her place and though we knew she would only be with us a little over a decade, we chose to love anyway and that is a valuable life lesson too.
Survey respondents also had similar thoughts. When prompted, here were some of the most common answers as to the hardest thing about having a pet:
“That they don’t live as long as we do.”
“When you cannot understand what they want or need.”
“Leaving them to go to work.”
“That they have a great life and billions of other beings don’t.”
Gratitude and Mindfulness
Wow, that last one… “That they have a great life and billions of other beings don’t.” When we read that one, it really struck home. Mixed emotions. First, guilt that technically speaking most of us have a roof over our heads and a warm meal at dinner. Then, the fact that sometimes, we don’t feel like our life is so great because we’re mentally not at our best sometimes. And, in fact, while there are so many things to be grateful for, it’s still hard to feel these feelings:
- Unable To Do The Things We Want To
Pets can help take the “Un” out of those phrases and remind us that at least one (or two!) little animals knows how great we are. And, when you’re in a dark cloud, it’s easy to forget that there are lots of people who you mean something to. They might be far away or in our memories, but everyone has someone who loves them very much. You too. Yes, you.
And, when it’s hard to remind yourself, come to a counseling session where the focus is completely on you for a change in a positive way. Over and over when men have come through the door into therapy, they realize what a great space it is to get the tough stuff out of the table and solve problems that take another set of ears and eyes. Give it a try and doubtful you’ll be disappointed. See you soon.