Incorporating Your Pets into Your Selfcare Practices.
Selfcare is better with your pet.
ZOOEYIA: (ZOO-ey-ah) A single word to sum up an extraordinary bond extending through the centuries connecting humankind and the animals we have learned to revere, domesticate, and protect. Zooeyia itself describes the profound physical and psychological benefits made possible from animal connections. This word was coined from the Greek root words for animal (zoion) and health (from the Greek goddess of health, Hygeia).
Fact: Practicing self-care produces happy hormones in your brain which will uplift your mood, sharpen focus and increase your motivation for the next 24 hours.
With just these 2 pieces of information it is not hard to imagine how much stronger the benefits of our selfcare routine could be if we were to combine it with time with our pets. Whether it’s a dog, cat, bunny rabbit, bird or any other one of these amazing creatures that you may have in your family, animals have an inbuilt drive to practice self-care on a daily basis and they are willing to share their knowledge and energy with us. When we bring our pets into our selfcare routine it will provide us with the opportunity to learn from them and create strong bonds with them.
A few years ago, in preparation for a major surgery, I was working with an energy healer. During the session her cat Smitters jumped on the table with me and began his own energy work. It was an amazing experience that I will always treasure.
Let’s explore how our pets’ comfort, teach and inspire us!
What Science Tells Us
Here are some of the biggest ways just having a pet in your life factors into your self-care routine
Pets are mood-boosters: It doesn’t matter what type of pet you have, they are huge mood-boosters, especially for people who are suffering from illness or loneliness. Having pets provides us with social support which improves our overall well-being. Did you know, just gazing into your pets eyes releases the “feel-good” hormones oxytocin and dopamine. In addition, they provide companionship, comfort and an established routine, all of which can be helpful in managing depression or melting away a stressful day. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a survey of pet owners showed that 74% reported mental health improvements from pet ownership, and 75% reported a friend’s or family member’s mental health had improved from pet ownership. Next time your need a mood booster, connect with your furry bestie and do some soulful eye gazing.
Pets make us more open and comfortable with other humans: Just mentioning a pet is powerful social lubricant. Even my husband who has very little to say in groups will dominate a conversation sharing stories about our dog. A 2005 review in the British Medical Journal found that pets act as “social catalysts” — which is science for “they make people talk to each other and hang out more. At a social gathering and need a conversation starter? Share a funny story about your pet and see who responds. You may end of making a friend for life.
Pets make you less stressed: Studies have found that owning a Pet is great for your stress—as in, it lowers it. By lowering stress, our pets also help lower their owners’ risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and stroke. Who doesn’t love a good comeback story?
Pets keep you active: Physical activity is a key component of self-care. As Elle Woods put it: “exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy”. Owning a dog has been shown to increase overall activity levels such as daily walks, not to mention fetch, tug and other play. Whoo…. I am breaking a sweat just thinking about it. I challenge you get out that wand chaser, laser pointer, or frisbee and get active with your pets.
Pets help you sleep better: Getting plenty of sleep each night is an important your self-care routine and owning a cat can help improve your sleep routine. That’s not really surprising, since cats are basically the sleep experts of the animal kingdom. Studies have found that many people (women, in particular) actually prefer to sleep with their cats over their partners, and even report sleeping better with a cat than with a human as their bedmate. Another study, this one from the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine, confirmed these findings. In the Mayo Clinic study, 41 percent participants said they slept better because of their pet. Snuggling in the bed is always a favorite for my pup and I. If you have been on the fence about allowing your cat or dog in the bed, go ahead and do it! (Not recommend for other pets!)
Pets make work more enjoyable: Studies show that pets relieve stress in the workplace. They raise our oxytocin levels and reduce levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol, which can run rampant at workplaces. They also increase productivity; a survey conducted in 2008 by the American Pet Products Manufacturers found that people who worked in pet-friendly offices were willing to work more hours and took fewer days off than employees who weren’t allowed to bring pets to work. If you are still commuting to the office, and pets are not a typical sight, consider organizing a “Take Your Pet to Work Day” as a way to boost morale, connect with co-workers and raise awareness for local animal shelters. Working from Home? Having a pet will make for a better work at home environment. My pup Hot Sauce has a bed under my desk by my feet. He looks forward to going to work every day and so do I.
Pets give you energy and positive vibes: In a study from Indiana University Bloomington, just watching videos of cats online was found to boost viewers’ energy and positive emotions while simultaneously decreasing negative feelings. Do one better. Take a mental wellness break from your computer, television and smart phone and spend some focused time with your pets. Soak up at energy and positive vibes and then share it with others.
Cats can heal your muscles by purring: We already know that listening to a cat purr can be soothing for the soul, but it can also be soothing for your body. A cat’s purrs have the ability to help heal human bones and muscle. Seriously. Here’s how it works: A cat’s purr creates vibrations at a frequency of 20-140 HZ. Some studies have shown that frequencies between 18 and 35 HZ can positively impact joint mobility after an injury. BOOM. Science. Next time you get over zealous during your workout and you want reach for the heating pad, reach for your cat instead!
What I have learned from my pets
As masters of mindfulness and champions of couch snuggles, our pets are essentially stay-at-home self-care gurus.
Enforce the boundaries that you set: Cats are perfect examples of a creature that knows and enforces their boundaries. My cat Taffy, would swat at me when she had had enough petting. My pup Hot Sauce will walk out-side and potty on extremely hot, cold, or rainy days but lets me know that a walk is out of the question. Honestly, I am thankful. What boundaries do your pets set? What boundaries do you need to set?
Don’t be afraid to let your needs be known: If our pets are the masters of mindfulness then humans are masters of the “Silent Contract”. By that I mean, we expect that our partners, family members or even our friends know what we want without us telling them. These silent contracts lead to our disappointment when not fulfilled by the other party. Our pets know better. They will let us know when they want to be fed, played with, petted let out to potty or just left alone. My cat Raja would nip at me when he decided it was time to pay him attention. Many of the pups I care for thorough my pet sitting business that will touch me with their paw when I stop petting to let me know they are not done yet. The lesson is, if you need emotional support from your friends, family or partners; be direct and just let them know. Not sure how to? Check in with your pets for tips.
Lounge like nobody’s watching: Do you feel like you are non-stop 24/7? Try setting aside your to-do list for some lower-key self-care activities. The first order of business? A quality lounge session. For best lounging results, take cues from your cat or dog, find a patch of sunshine, paws up, belly out, no meows to give. Go ahead and stretch out across the entire sofa (if your pet will give you the space)—you deserve it.
Be present moment: If you’ve had the pleasure of loving a shelter dog, you know that the pups among us live in the moment. They’re not sad about something that happened yesterday, and they’re not worried about what could happen tomorrow. The only thing our dogs know is that today, they’re loved and you have a treat for them. Turn your phone on silent when you take fido for a walk and take in the beauty around you. Look for images the clouds, sniff the fresh air, and enjoy the walk. When you’re feeling anxious, try to channel your inner canine and find peace in the present.
Enjoy the little things: Dropped a sausage? Your dog has never been happier. Empty Amazon box? That’s an entire day of quality cat fun. When you celebrate the little things, these uncertain days can be surprisingly joyful. Try keeping a daily journal of the good things that have happened and read it out loud to your pets. They LOVE to hear the sound of your voice.
Savor your shut-eye: The average cat snoozes 15 hours a day. While you don’t need nearly that much rest, quality sleep is essential to your physical and mental wellbeing. When it’s time to turn in, commit to your slumber like a sleep-entitled cat—no phone, no TV, no worries. Feel the need for a nap? You know who to consult and invite them to join you.
Stretch it out: Our pets know the importance of long, relaxing, and rejuvenating stretches. While the yoga studios are closed, you can still hit the mat at home. YouTube has LOTS of online exercises and you can search for the ones that meet your need at that very moment and it FREE. Invite your pets to join in with you for a yoga class! You’ll never see a more authentic downward-dog!
Pamper yourself: Cats are divas. They do what they want, when they want, because they want. If there was ever a time to focus on yourself, it’s now. Think like a feline and treat yourself to something special, whether it’s a long, relaxing bath or a little desert with lunch. Don’t forget to offer a treat to your pet too for guiding you on this journey.
Forgive and forget: As you may have noticed by now, spending this much time at home together can be … challenging. Disputes are normal, but holding a grudge will only increase your stress. Luckily, dogs can teach us everything we need to know about forgiving and forgetting. The next time someone steps on your paw in a cramped kitchen or eats the last treat, remember what you love about them and move on. Your dog will be proud.
Stay positive: There are endless reasons you may open a cabinet. But every time your pup hears that telltale noise, he thinks a treat is coming his way. Why? Because dogs are the original positive thinkers. Before affirmations were trendy or “manifesting” was a buzzword, dogs hoped for the best and expected a biscuit. While it can be tempting to worry, instead try to ask yourself, “What’s the best that can happen today?” Or better yet, ask your dog and enjoy a biscuit together.
Remember to unplug: In our hyper-connected world, information can be overwhelming. News is broadcast around the clock, phones ping with notifications, and Facebook feeds are jam-packed with updates. You know who isn’t stressed about the latest headline? Your pets, who remain blissfully unaware of Twitter. While staying informed is important, try to limit your screen time if you’re feeling anxious. Ask your cat for tips–she hasn’t scrolled through Instagram in years, and she doesn’t miss it.
Show the love: How do you know your dog loves you? Because he shows you 15 -50 times a day with face licks, tail wags, and “welcome home!” celebrations. Other pets may play it cooler, but even they can’t resist attention now and then. Let those you care about know that you’re thinking of them, and don’t be shy about reconnecting with old friends. As covid19 has made it a little difficult to dine out, I like to invite my friends to have a Zoom Lunch with me. It’s fun when our pets stroll by to say hello. We all have a little more time on our hands these days, so let’s put it to good use.
9 Self-Care activities you can do with your pets
Both you and your furry bestie will benefit from engaging in these activities together.
- Give them a massage: Pets love a good massage as much as we do. Being on the giving end will also increase your mood
- Make time for play: Spend time playing with them every day. As the years go on, we forget how to play. But Labs of every age will play with a ball and even the most mature cats love to chase that red dot from a laser pointer. Give yourself a break from work in the middle of the day to play with your pets. It’s fun and relaxing, and will put both of you in a better mood!
- Take a walk: As mentioned above, owning a dog tends to make you more active, and physical activity is key in boosting your mood. It doesn’t have to be the longest walk in the world, just get out of the house and take the dog! They’ll appreciate it and you’ll most likely experience a mood lift from the exercise and the fresh air. But walking is not just for dogs. Lots of other pets enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. YES, you can teach your cat to enjoy a good leash walk and there are lots of Pet Packs on the market now for small animals such as guineapigs and ferrets that makes it easy for them to tag along with you. Have a bird as your pet? as long as your Birds wings are clipped and it is properly tethered to you, walk around outside with your bird on your shoulder and practice pirate phrases.
- Learn something new: Dogs love learning new tricks and it is not just for the treats. This activity allows them connect, and bond with you. It also provides them with mental stimulation and a well-balanced life. Have a cat, bird or other pet? No Worries! All pets have the ability to learn and respond to commands. Of course, remember to reward them AND yourself with plenty of treats. If you find yourself with some additional free time, consider learning a “trick” of your own, such as a new language, instrument, recipe or even pet first aid! Not feeling motivated? Create a reward system and remind yourself that the reward is waiting for you.
- Nap together: Don’t we all enjoy a good cat (or Dog) nap? You probably have to ask them to give up some space on the sofa or bed for you anyway.
- Have a Pupdate with a Friend: It’ fun to connect with other pet lovers and share stories about our furry loved ones. Why not invite you pups to join in the fun? Whether it is a walk in your neighborhood or a local park, your pup will enjoy being invited along. When the weather starts warming up again, consider dining out with your dog. Many restaurants and cafes allow dogs on their outdoor patios. Just make sure to bring snacks or treats for your furry bestie to keep them entertained while you are catching up with your two-legged friends.
- Mediate: Dogs and Cats are masters at relaxation. Invite them to sit with you or even on you during your meditation time. There are even meditation programs for you to enjoy with your pets.
- Cuddle: Set aside some cuddling time every day. The act of cuddling helps create a stronger bond between you and your pet by releasing oxytocin, the “bonding hormone” that makes us feel cozy and lovey-dovey, in your brain.
- Join a Pet Club: There are a lot of pet related groups on social media that offer online and in person education and social connection. I just recently launched the Peninsula Pups Dog Walking Club to connect with other pup owners who like to explore the Virginia Peninsula with their dogs. If you are local, you are invited to join us. Find us on Facebook at @PeninsulaPupsDogWalkingClub or under the resources area of the Critter Sitters and More Website https://www.crittersittersandmore.com/dog-walking-club/.
The biggest takeaway from all of this is: spend time with your pets every day.
Our pets love us unconditionally and enjoy every moment that we spend with them. YOU are their favorite human, make the most of it and reap the benefits. Best of all, you will be investing time into your pet’s health and wellbeing as well. It is a Win/Win for all!
Want more information on pet health and wellness? Check out our resources page https://www.crittersittersandmore.com/client-resources/