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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Pets for Stress

One of the best things about having a puppy is the external motivation for getting exercise at times of the day you never would if you didn’t have to. Having just been out for a walk/run with the pooch at 9.30pm (something I would never, ever do if it were just down to me!), I feel energised and revitalised. 

However, there is a negative voice inside me (the evil “should”) which says I SHOULD be able to motivate myself to exercise, and I SHOULD value myself enough to do it for that alone... Frankly, when I am working full time and I am feeling the emotional burden and fatigue of my job, the SHOULD can f*** off. I actually am of the opinion that externally motivating factors are not such a bad thing. Whatever works, right?!

I have improved my fitness significantly since getting Poppy, by accidental exercise. You wouldn’t believe how many times I have had to run up and down the stairs to let her out for wees/poos, to get up from the sofa to check she hasn’t eaten more books/shoes/socks/bank cards (usually indicated by suspicious silence), to chase her when she has stolen the remote control, to play with her because she needs distracting from destruction (and because it’s fun!), to run after her when I have stupidly let her off the lead before being properly trained and she has run all the way home with a stick in her mouth… I could go on! But these are the things you take on with a puppy, and my life, sense of wellbeing and daily joy have increased tenfold since her arrival. Bring on the pets!

There has been a great deal of research into how pets are good for stress relief. However I don’t need academics to tell me the benefits of having a pet in my life. Without even glancing at a scientific paper I know how good it feels to come home to a happy, waggy, furry little friend who is delighted to see me. Stroking her soft fur soothes me, talking to her keeps me company and I have already written about the positive effects of walking her when feeling down. There’s also something in taking responsibility for caring for another when they are totally dependent. It makes me feel good that I am up to the job of giving her a happy home, when in her previous life she was an unwanted Christmas puppy on death row (breaks your heart, doesn’t it).

Before I had a dog, I seriously considered volunteering as a dog walker for a local rescue centre. Animals are such wonderful creatures, living in the present, blissfully ignorant of our material and societal worries. I imagine life in Poppy’s furry skin –full of joy, fun and pleasure-seeking, every walk a new adventure, every dog a potential playmate, every person newly exciting and interesting. Experiencing enhanced sights, sounds and smells, or simple pleasures from chasing a ball (and my own tail!). No human fears of failure, or of being judged and criticised. Eating when I am hungry, sleeping when I feel tired. Being totally in touch with my instincts and putting them before everything else. This sounds like glorious freedom to an adult human enslaved in the world of workand financial responsibilities! Imagine living like that….

Having a pet isn’t for everyone, some people don’t have the time, space or money to care for one properly. However everyone can benefit from the calming, centring and humbling presence of animals. They help us to recall our natural instincts, to pay attention to our bodies, senses and our environment. They can bring pleasure and peace. If you don’t have a pet, visit someone who does. I guarantee you will feel better.

If you like what you have read, please share this blog and subscribe with your email! Many thanks, ChamomileTea xxx

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